N6-methyladenosine modification of circCUX1 confers radioresistance of hypopharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma through caspase1 pathway

Cell Death Dis. 2021 Mar 19;12(4):298. doi: 10.1038/s41419-021-03558-2.


Hypopharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (HPSCC) is one of the most common malignant tumors in otolaryngology head and neck surgery and is one of the worst prognostic malignant tumors. Endogenous circular RNA (circRNA) is more stable than mRNA, microRNA (miRNA), and long non-coding RNA (LncRNA) in exosomes, plasma, and urine, and participates in gene expression regulation to perform different functions. Therefore, circRNA is expected to become a biomarker and therapy target for many tumors. However, the expression and function of circRNA regulated by N6-methyladenosine (m6A) are still unclear in HNSCC. In this study, we demonstrated that a specific circRNA, circCUX1, was upregulated in HPSCC patients who are resistant to radiotherapy and predicts poor survival outcome. We further found that methyltransferase like 3 (METTL3) mediated the m6A methylation of circCUX1 and stabilizes its expression. Knockdown circCUX1 promotes the sensitivity of hypopharyngeal cancer cells to radiotherapy. In addition, circCUX1 binds to Caspase1 and inhibits its expression, resulting in a decrease in the release of inflammatory factors, thereby developing tolerance to radiotherapy. Our findings indicate that circCUX1 is a potential therapeutic target for radiotherapy tolerance in HPSCC patients.

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Adenosine / metabolism
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Caspase 1 / metabolism*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Homeodomain Proteins / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Hypopharyngeal Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Hypopharyngeal Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Middle Aged
  • RNA, Circular / metabolism*
  • Radiation Tolerance
  • Repressor Proteins / genetics*
  • Signal Transduction
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma of Head and Neck / metabolism*
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma of Head and Neck / radiotherapy*
  • Transcription Factors / genetics*


  • CUX1 protein, human
  • Homeodomain Proteins
  • RNA, Circular
  • Repressor Proteins
  • Transcription Factors
  • N-methyladenosine
  • Caspase 1
  • Adenosine