CircRNF220, not its linear cognate gene RNF220, regulates cell growth and is associated with relapse in pediatric acute myeloid leukemia

Mol Cancer. 2021 Oct 26;20(1):139. doi: 10.1186/s12943-021-01395-7.


Background: Circular RNAs (circRNAs) constitute a family of transcripts with unique structures and have been confirmed to be critical in tumorigenesis and to be potential biomarkers or therapeutic targets. However, only a few circRNAs have been functionally characterized in pediatric acute myeloid leukemia (AML).

Methods: Here, we investigated the expression pattern of circRNAs in pediatric AML using a circRNA microarray. The characteristics, potential diagnostic value, and prognostic significance of circRNF220 were evaluated. A series of functional experiments were performed to investigate the role of circRNF220 in primary pediatric AML cells. Then we investigated the aberrant transcriptional networks regulated by circRNF220 in primary AML cells by RNA-seq. Furthermore, biotin RNA pulldown assays were implemented to verify the relationship between circRNF220 and miR-30a.

Results: We identified a circRNA, circRNF220, which was specifically abundant in and accumulated in the peripheral blood and bone marrow of pediatric patients with AML. It could distinguish AML from ALL and other hematological malignancies with high sensitivity and specificity. Significantly, circRNF220 expression independently predicted prognosis, while high expression of circRNF220 was an unfavorable prognostic marker for relapse. Furthermore, we characterized the function of circRNF220 and found that circRNF220 knockdown specifically inhibited proliferation and promoted apoptosis in AML cell lines and primary cells. Mechanistically, circRNF220 may act as an endogenous sponge of miR-30a to sequester miR-30a and inhibit its activity, which increases the expression of its targets MYSM1 and IER2 and implicated in AML relapse.

Conclusions: Collectively, these findings demonstrated that circRNF220 could be highly efficient and specific for the accurate diagnosis of pediatric AML, with implications for relapse prediction.

Keywords: Acute myeloid leukemia; Circular RNA; RNF220; miR-30a.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Apoptosis / genetics
  • Biomarkers, Tumor*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cell Cycle / genetics
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Gene Regulatory Networks
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute / diagnosis*
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute / genetics*
  • Male
  • Models, Biological
  • Prognosis
  • RNA, Circular / genetics*
  • ROC Curve
  • Recurrence
  • Ubiquitin-Protein Ligases / genetics*


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • RNA, Circular
  • RNF220 protein, human
  • Ubiquitin-Protein Ligases