Characterization of distinct circular RNA signatures in solid tumors

Mol Cancer. 2022 Mar 2;21(1):63. doi: 10.1186/s12943-022-01546-4.


Background: Circular RNAs (circRNAs) are differentially expressed between normal and cancerous tissues, contributing to tumor initiation and progression. However, comprehensive landscape of dysregulated circRNAs across cancer types remains unclear.

Methods: In this study, we conducted Ribo-Zero transcriptome sequencing on tumor tissues and their adjacent normal samples including glioblastoma, esophageal squamous cell carcinoma, lung adenocarcinoma, thyroid cancer, colorectal cancer, gastric cancer and hepatocellular carcinoma. CIRCexplorer2 was employed to identify circRNAs and dysregulated circRNAs and genes were determined by DESeq2 package. The expression of hsa_circ_0072309 (circLIFR) was measured by reverse transcription and quantitative real-time PCR, and its effect on cell migration was examined by Transwell and wound healing assays. The role of circLIFR in tumor metastasis was evaluated via mouse models of tail-vein injection and spleen injection for lung and liver metastasis, respectively.

Results: Distinct circRNA expression signatures were identified among seven types of solid tumors, and the dysregulated circRNAs exhibited cancer-specific expression or shared common expression signatures across cancers. Bioinformatics analyses indicated that aberrant expression of host genes and/or RNA-binding proteins contributed to circRNA dysregulation in cancer. Finally, circLIFR was experimentally validated to be downregulated in six solid tumors and to significantly inhibit cell migration in vitro and tumor metastasis in vivo.

Conclusions: Our results provide a comprehensive landscape of differentially expressed circRNAs in solid tumors and highlight that circRNAs are extensively involved in cancer pathogenesis.

Keywords: CircLIFR; Circular RNA; Solid tumors; Transcriptome sequencing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Movement / genetics
  • Computational Biology / methods
  • Esophageal Neoplasms*
  • Esophageal Squamous Cell Carcinoma*
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • RNA / genetics
  • RNA / metabolism
  • RNA, Circular / genetics


  • RNA, Circular
  • RNA