Nur77-activated lncRNA WFDC21P attenuates hepatocarcinogenesis via modulating glycolysis

Oncogene. 2020 Mar;39(11):2408-2423. doi: 10.1038/s41388-020-1158-y. Epub 2020 Jan 20.


Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is one of the leading causes of cancer-related mortality worldwide. Orphan nuclear receptor Nur77, which is low expressed in HCC, functions as a tumor suppressor to suppress HCC. However, the detailed mechanism is still not well understood. Here, we demonstrate that Nur77 could inhibit HCC development via transcriptional activation of the lncRNA WAP four-disulfide core domain 21 pseudogene (WFDC21P). Nur77 binds to its response elements on the WFDC21P promoter to directly induce WFDC21P transcription, which inhibits HCC cell proliferation, tumor growth, and tumor metastasis both in vitro and in vivo. In clinical HCC samples, WFDC21P expression positively correlated with that of Nur77, and the loss of WFDC21P is associated with worse prognosis. Mechanistically, WFDC21P could inhibit glycolysis by simultaneously interacting with PFKP and PKM2, two key enzymes in glycolysis. These interactions not only abrogate the tetramer formation of PFKP to impede its catalytic activity but also prevent the nuclear translocation of PKM2 to suppress its function as a transcriptional coactivator. Cytosporone-B (Csn-B), an agonist for Nur77, could stimulate WFDC21P expression and suppress HCC in a WFDC21P-dependent manner. Therefore, our study reveals a new HCC suppressor and connects the glycolytic remodeling of HCC with the Nur77-WFDC21P-PFKP/PKM2 axis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carcinogenesis
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / genetics
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / metabolism*
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / pathology
  • Cell Growth Processes
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Glycolysis
  • Hep G2 Cells
  • Heterografts
  • Humans
  • Liver Neoplasms / genetics
  • Liver Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Liver Neoplasms / pathology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Nude
  • Nuclear Receptor Subfamily 4, Group A, Member 1 / agonists
  • Nuclear Receptor Subfamily 4, Group A, Member 1 / genetics
  • Nuclear Receptor Subfamily 4, Group A, Member 1 / metabolism*
  • Phenylacetates / pharmacology
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • RNA, Long Noncoding / genetics
  • RNA, Long Noncoding / metabolism*
  • Transcriptional Activation
  • Up-Regulation


  • NR4A1 protein, human
  • Nuclear Receptor Subfamily 4, Group A, Member 1
  • Phenylacetates
  • RNA, Long Noncoding
  • cytosporone B