circFNDC3B Accelerates Vasculature Formation and Metastasis in Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Cancer Res. 2023 May 2;83(9):1459-1475. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-22-2585.


Emerging evidence has demonstrated that circular RNAs (circRNA) are involved in cancer metastasis. Further elucidation of the role of circRNAs in oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) could provide insights into mechanisms driving metastasis and potential therapeutic targets. Here, we identify a circRNA, circFNDC3B, that is significantly upregulated in OSCC and is positively associated with lymph node (LN) metastasis. In vitro and in vivo functional assays showed that circFNDC3B accelerated the migration and invasion of OSCC cells and the tube-forming capacity of human umbilical vein endothelial cells and human lymphatic endothelial cells. Mechanistically, circFNDC3B regulated ubiquitylation of the RNA-binding protein FUS and the deubiquitylation of HIF1A through the E3 ligase MDM2 to promote VEGFA transcription, thereby enhancing angiogenesis. Meanwhile, circFNDC3B sequestered miR-181c-5p to upregulate SERPINE1 and PROX1, which drove epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) or partial-EMT (p-EMT) in OSCC cells and promoted lymphangiogenesis to accelerate LN metastasis. Overall, these findings uncovered the mechanistic role of circFNDC3B in orchestrating cancer cell metastatic properties and vasculature formation, suggesting circFNDC3B could be a potential target to reduce OSCC metastasis.

Significance: Dual functions of circFNDC3B in enhancing the metastatic ability of cancer cells and promoting vasculature formation through regulation of multiple pro-oncogenic signaling pathways drive lymph node metastasis of OSCC.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell* / pathology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Movement / genetics
  • Cell Proliferation / genetics
  • Endothelial Cells / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Humans
  • Lymphatic Metastasis
  • MicroRNAs* / genetics
  • Mouth Neoplasms* / pathology
  • RNA, Circular
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma of Head and Neck / genetics


  • MicroRNAs
  • RNA, Circular