Small molecule inhibition of Ewing sarcoma cell growth via targeting the long non coding RNA HULC

Neri Mercatelli, Diana Fortini, Ramona Palombo, Maria Paola Paronetto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Ewing sarcomas (ES) are aggressive pediatric cancers of bone and soft tissues characterized by in frame chromosomal translocations giving rise to chimeric transcription factors, such as EWS-FLI1. An emerging strategy to block EWS-FLI1 activity is represented by the small molecule YK-4-279, which binds to EWS-FLI1 and alters its transcriptional activity. The specific effectors of the anti-oncogenic activity of YK-4-279 are still largely unknown. Herein, by performing a high-throughput screening we identify the lncRNA HULC (Highly Upregulated in Liver Cancer) as a prominent target of YK-4-279 activity in ES cells. High levels of HULC correlate with ES aggressiveness, whereas HULC depletion reduces ES cell growth. Mechanistically, we find that HULC promotes the expression of TWIST1 oncogene by sponging miR-186. Downregulation of HULC upon treatment with YK-4-279 reduces the expression of TWIST1 by unleashing miR-186 and favoring its binding to TWIST1 transcripts. Notably, high levels of miR-186 and low levels of TWIST1 correlate with better prognosis in ES patients. Our results disclose a novel oncogenic regulatory circuit mediated by HULC lncRNA that is disrupted by the small molecule YK-4-279, with promising therapeutic implications for ES treatment.

Original languageEnglish
JournalCancer Letters
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2019


  • Ewing sarcoma
  • HULC
  • Noncoding RNA
  • TWIST1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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