Long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) are emerging as fundamental players in cancer biology. Indeed, they are deregulated in several neoplasias and have been associated with cancer progression, tumor recurrence, and resistance to treatment, thus representing potential biomarkers for cancer diagnosis, prognosis, and therapy. In this study, we aimed to identify lncRNAs associated with pituitary tumorigenesis. We have analyzed the lncRNA expression profile of a panel of gonadotroph pituitary adenomas in comparison with normal pituitaries. Then, we focused on RPSAP52, a novel lncRNA antisense for the HMGA2 gene, whose overexpression plays a critical role in the development of pituitary adenomas. We report that RPSAP52 expression is highly upregulated in gonadotroph and prolactin-secreting pituitary adenomas, where it correlates with that of HMGA2, compared with normal pituitary tissues. Conversely, its expression showed a variable behavior in somatotroph adenomas. We also demonstrate that RPSAP52 enhances HMGA2 protein expression in a ceRNA-dependent way acting as sponge for miR-15a, miR-15b, and miR-16, which have been already described to be able to target HMGA2. Interestingly, RPSAP52 also positively modulates HMGA1, the other member of the High-Mobility Group A family. Moreover, functional studies indicate that RPSAP52 promotes cell growth by enhancing the G1-S transition of the cell cycle. The results reported here reveal a novel mechanism, based on the overexpression of the lncRNA RPSAP52, which contributes to pituitary tumorigenesis, and propose this lncRNA as a novel player in the development of these tumors. KEY MESSAGES: RPSAP52 is overexpressed in pituitary adenomas. RPSAP52 increases HMGA protein levels. A ceRNA mechanism is proposed for the increased HMGA1/2 expression.
Keywords: HMGA2; Pituitary adenomas; RPSAP52; lncRNA; microRNA.