Background: Papillary thyroid cancers (PTCs) are common, usually indolent malignancies. Still, a small but significant percentage of patients have aggressive tumors and develop distant metastases leading to death. Currently, it is not possible to discriminate aggressive lesions due to lack of prognostic markers. Long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs), which are selectively expressed in a context-dependent manner, are expected to represent a new landscape to search for molecular discriminants. Transforming growth factor β (TGFβ) is a multifunctional cytokine that fosters epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition and metastatic spreading. In PTCs, it triggers the expression of the metastatic marker Cadherin 6 (CDH6). Here, we investigated the TGFβ-dependent lncRNAs that may cooperate to potentiate PTC aggressiveness. Methods: We used a genome-wide approach to map enhancer (ENH)-associated lncRNAs under TGFβ control. Linc00941 was selected and validated using functional in vitro assays. A combined approach using bioinformatic analyses of the thyroid cancer (THCA)-the cancer genome atlas (TCGA) dataset and RNA-seq analysis was used to identify the processes in which linc00941 was involved in and the genes under its regulation. Correlation with clinical data was performed to evaluate the potential of this lncRNA and its targets as prognostic markers in THCA. Results: Linc00941 was identified as transcribed starting from one of the TGFβ-induced ENHs. Linc00941 expression was significantly higher in aggressive cancer both in the TCGA dataset and in a separate validation cohort from our institution. Loss of function assays for linc00941 showed that it promotes response to stimuli and invasiveness while restraining proliferation in PTC cells, a typical phenotype of metastatic cells. From the integration of TCGA data and linc00941 knockdown RNA-seq profiling, we identified 77 genes under the regulation of this lncRNA. Among these, we found the prometastatic gene CDH6. Linc00941 knockdown partially recapitulates the effects observed upon CDH6 silencing, promoting cell cytoskeleton and membrane adhesions rearrangements and autophagy. The combined expression of CDH6 and linc00941 is a distinctive feature of highly aggressive PTC lesions. Conclusions: Our data provide new insights into the biology driving metastasis in PTCs and highlight how lncRNAs cooperate with coding transcripts to sustain these processes.
|Journal||Thyroid : official journal of the American Thyroid Association|
|Publication status||E-pub ahead of print - Jul 1 2020|