Inducible lncRNA transgenic mice reveal continual role of HOTAIR in promoting breast cancer metastasis

Elife. 2022 Dec 29:11:e79126. doi: 10.7554/eLife.79126.


HOTAIR is a 2.2-kb long noncoding RNA (lncRNA) whose dysregulation has been linked to oncogenesis, defects in pattern formation during early development, and irregularities during the process of epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT). However, the oncogenic transformation determined by HOTAIR in vivo and its impact on chromatin dynamics are incompletely understood. Here, we generate a transgenic mouse model with doxycycline-inducible expression of human HOTAIR in the context of the MMTV-PyMT breast cancer-prone background to systematically interrogate the cellular mechanisms by which human HOTAIR lncRNA acts to promote breast cancer progression. We show that sustained high levels of HOTAIR over time increased breast metastatic capacity and invasiveness in breast cancer cells, promoting migration and subsequent metastasis to the lung. Subsequent withdrawal of HOTAIR overexpression reverted the metastatic phenotype, indicating oncogenic lncRNA addiction. Furthermore, HOTAIR overexpression altered both the cellular transcriptome and chromatin accessibility landscape of multiple metastasis-associated genes and promoted EMT. These alterations are abrogated within several cell cycles after HOTAIR expression is reverted to basal levels, indicating an erasable lncRNA-associated epigenetic memory. These results suggest that a continual role for HOTAIR in programming a metastatic gene regulatory program. Targeting HOTAIR lncRNA may potentially serve as a therapeutic strategy to ameliorate breast cancer progression.

Keywords: breast cancer; cancer biology; chromatin; chromosomes; epigenetics; gene expression; genetically engineered mouse model; lncRNA; metastasis; mouse.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Breast Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Breast Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Chromatin
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / secondary
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • RNA, Long Noncoding* / genetics
  • RNA, Long Noncoding* / metabolism


  • Chromatin
  • RNA, Long Noncoding
  • HOTAIR long untranslated RNA, human

Associated data

  • GEO/GSE201581
  • GEO/GSE201582