lncRNA SNHG7 promotes tumorigenesis of nasopharyngeal carcinoma via epithelial‑to‑mesenchymal transition
Retraction in: /10.3892/ol.2020.11949
Affiliations: Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, The Affiliated Hospital of Qingdao University, Qingdao, Shandong 266003, P.R. China
- Published online on: February 14, 2020 https://doi.org/10.3892/ol.2020.11397
- Pages: 2721-2726
Copyright: © Xu et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of Creative Commons Attribution License.
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Nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) is an epithelial malignancy which is one of the most common head and neck epithelial cancers globally, and especially in Southern China and Southeast Asia (1). As advances have been made in interventions and screening, the prognosis for patients with local and regional NPC has significantly improved. However, most patients with NPC are diagnosed at advanced stages. High incidence of treatment resistance, lymph node metastasis and recurrence contribute to the poor prognosis and cancer-related death in NPC. The 5-year survival rate of advanced NPC was reported as <40% (2,3). Therefore, deep understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying tumorigenesis of NPC is urgently required, which could help to promote the development of effective individualized therapy and improve the poor prognosis of these patients.
Technology in human genome sequence has indicated that most transcripts, which do not code protein, are non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs). As one major subgroup of ncRNAs, long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) are defined as ncRNAs greater than 200 nt. Recent research has suggested that lncRNAs are crucial regulators in the progression of various cancers. For instance, downregulation of lncRNA snaR restrains the proliferation, invasion and migrationof breast cancer cells which may serve as a potential treatment for triple-negative breast cancer (4). lncRNA LOC554202 promotes cell proliferation and cell migration in gastric cancer by modulating p21 and E-cadherin (5). lncRNA TTN-AS1 functions as an oncogene in esophageal squamous cell carcinoma by promoting cell proliferation and cell metastasis through regulating miR133b/FSCN1 regulatory axis (6). As a sponge of miR-149, lncRNA SNHG8 enhances tumorigenesis and metastasis in hepatocellular carcinoma and offers a novel biomarker and therapeutic strategy (7).
lncRNA small nucleolar RNA host gene 7 (SNHG7) is a novel lncRNA which plays a vital role in malignant tumors. In this study, SNHG7 was obviously overexpressed in NPC samples and cell lines. Moreover, SNHG7 promoted cell migration and cell invasion in NPC both in vitro and in vivo. Our further experiments also showed that SNHG7 induced epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) process of NPC.
Patients and methods
Tumor samples and the adjacent tissues samples (≥5 cm away from the edge of tumor tissues) were gathered from 60 NPC cases who underwent surgery at The Affiliated Hospital of Qingdao University (Qingdao, China). Participants in this study provided written informed consents. All fresh tissues were preserved at −80°C. Signed written informed consents were obtained from all participants before the study. The experiment was approved by the Ethics Committee of The Affiliated Hospital of Qingdao University.
Normal nasopharyngeal epithelial cell line (NP69) and NPC cancer cell lines (5–8F, 6–18B, CNE1 and CNE2) were from American Type Culture Collection. Cells were maintained in 10% fetal bovine serum (FBS), Roswell Park Memorial Institute-1640 (RPMI-1640) as well as penicillin/streptomycin (Sigma-Aldrich; Merck KGaA). Besides, an incubator containing 5% CO2 was used to culture the cells at 37°C.
Short hairpin RNA (shRNA) or lentivirus against SNHG7 was provided by GenePharma. Scrambled oligonucleotides (NC) or empty vector (EV) was also synthesized. Then according to the manufacturer's protocol, SNHG7 shRNA or NC was transfected into 6–18B cells and SNHG7 lentivirus or EV was transfected into CNE2 cells through Lipofectamine 2000 reagent.
Real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR) and RNA extraction
TRIzol reagent (Invitrogen; Thermo Fisher Scientific, Inc.) was used to extract total RNA from tumor samples or cells from NPC patients after 24-h transfection. The Transcriptor First Strand cDNA synthesis kit was utilized to synthesize first-strand complementary deoxyribonucleic acid (cDNA). Following are the primers: SNHG7 forward, 5′-GTGACTTCGCCTGTGATGGA-3′ and reverse, 5′-GGCCTCTATCTGTACCTTTATTCC-3′; GAPDH, forward, 5′-GCACCGTCAAGGCTGAGAAC-3′ and reverse, 5′-TGGTGAAGACGCCAGTGGA-3′. Thermal cycle was as follows: Pre-denaturation at 95°C for 1 min, followed by 15 sec at 95°C for 40 cycles, 30 sec at 60°C, and 30 sec at 72°C. 2−ΔΔCt method was utilized for calculating relative expression.
Scratch wound assay
Seeded in 6-well plates, cells were incubated overnight. Cells were cultured in serum-free RPMI-1640 after being scratched. Relate distance was viewed under a light microscope at 0 and 48 h. Each assay was repeated in triplicate independently.
Cells (2×104) in serum-free RPMI-1640 were replanted in the upper chamber coated with 30 µl of Matrigel. While the bottom chamber was added with RPMI-1640 and FBS. To remove any uninfected cells from the upper chamber, the cells were immersed with 4% paraformaldehyde for 10 min and stained in 1% crystal violet for 30 min after 24 h of incubation, Next, cells were counted and photographed with a Leica DMI4000B microscope (Leica Microsystems).
Tumor metastasis assay
Transfected NPC cells were injected into 6-week-old NOD/SCID mouse tail vein. The mice were sacrificed, and the lungs were extracted after 4 weeks. Then the number of metastatic nodules in the lungs was counted. Animal experiments were approval by the Animal Ethics Committee of Qingdao University.
Western blot analysis
The protein was extracted from cells by using Reagent radioimmunoprecipitation assay (RIPA). Bicinchoninic acid (BCA) protein assay kit was chosen for quantifying concentrations of the protein. Sodium salt-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE) and dodecyl sulfate were used to separate the target proteins. Then they were replaced by polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF) membranes and incubated with antibodies. Rabbit anti-GAPDH, rabbit anti-E-cadherin, rabbit anti-vimentin, rabbit anti-N-cadherin and goat anti-rabbit secondary antibody were provided by Cell Signaling Technology. ImageJ software (Silver Springs) was applied for assessment of protein expression.
The statistical analysis was conducted by Statistical Product and Service Solutions (SPSS) 21.0. Difference between two groups were compared by independent-sample t-test. P<0.05 was considered to be statistically significant.
SNHG7 expression level in NPC tissues and cells
The results of RT-qPCR showed that SNHG7 was obviously overexpressed in tumor tissues compared to adjacent tissues (Fig. 1A). In addition, compared with the expression in NP69, SNHG7 expression level was much higher in NPC cells (Fig. 1B).
Expression levels of SNHG7 are increased in NPC tissues and cell lines. (A) SNHG7 expression was significantly increased in the NPC tissues compared with adjacent tissues. (B) Expression level of SNHG7 was higher in the human NPC cell lines than that in NP69 cells by RT-qPCR. GAPDH was used as an internal control. Data are presented as the mean ± standard error of the mean. *P<0.05. SNHG7, small nucleolar RNA host gene 7; NPC, nasopharyngeal carcinoma.
Cell migration and invasion are inhibited in NPC cells via knockdown of SNHG7
In this study, we chose 6–18B cells for the knockdown of SNHG7. Then RT-qPCR was utilized for detecting the SNHG7 expression (Fig. 2A). Moreover, Scratch wound assay indicated that after SNHG7 was knocked down, migrated length of 6–18B cells was significantly decreased (Fig. 2B). Furthermore, the outcome of Transwell assay showed that after SNHG7 was knocked down, the number of invaded cells was remarkably reduced (Fig. 2C). The number of metastatic nodules in the lung from the sh-SNHG7 group was significantly reduced compared to NC group (Fig. 2D).
Knockdown of SNHG7 inhibites NPC cell migration and invasion. (A) SNHG7 expression in NPC cells transfected with negative control (NC) or SNHG7 shRNA (sh-SNHG7) was detected by RT-qPCR. (B) Wound healing assay showed that the migrated length of cells in sh-SNHG7 group was obviously decreased compared with NC group in NPC cells (magnification, ×40). (C) Transwell assay showed that knockdown of SNHG7 significantly repressed cell invasion in NPC cells (magnification, ×40). (D) The number of metastatic nodules in the lung from the sh-SNHG7 group was significantly reduced compared to NC group. The results are the average of three independent experiments (mean ± standard error of the mean). *P<0.05, as compared with the control cells. SNHG7, small nucleolar RNA host gene 7; NPC, nasopharyngeal carcinoma.
Cell migration and cell invasion are promoted in NPC cells via overexpression of SNHG7
CNE2 cell line was selected for the overexpression of SNHG7. Then RT-qPCR was utilized for detecting the SNHG7 expression (Fig. 3A). Moreover, Scratch wound assay showed that after SNHG7 was overexpressed, the length of migration of 6–18B cells was significantly increased (Fig. 3B). Furthermore, Transwell assay indicated that after SNHG7 was overexpressed, the number of invaded cells was remarkably increased (Fig. 3C). When compared with EV group, the number of metastatic nodules in the lung from the SNHG7 group was obviously increased (Fig. 3D).
Overexpression of SNHG7 promotes NPC cell migration and invasion. (A) SNHG7 expression in NPC cells transfected with empty vector (EV) or SNHG7 lentivirus (SNHG7) was detected by RT-qPCR. (B) Wound healing assay showed that the migrated length of cells in SNHG7 group was obviously increased compared with EV group in NPC cells (magnification, ×40). (C) Transwell assay showed that overexpression of SNHG7 significantly promoted cell invasion in NPC cells (magnification, ×40). (D) The number of metastatic nodules in the lung from the SNHG7 group was significantly reduced compared to EV group. The results represent the average of three independent experiments (mean ± standard error of the mean). *P<0.05, as compared with the control cells. SNHG7, small nucleolar RNA host gene 7; NPC, nasopharyngeal carcinoma.
Interaction between EMT process and SNHG7 in NPC
To explore how SNHG7 functioned in EMT process of NPC, the EMT-related proteins such as vimentin, E-cadherin and N-cadherin were detected by using RT-qPCR and western blot assay. The result of RT-qPCR assay indicated that when compared with the expression in NC group, E-cadherin expression was higher in sh-SNHG7 group (Fig. 4A), while N-cadherin expression and vimentin expression were lower in sh-SNHG7 group (Fig. 4B). Western blot assay also showed the similar results (Fig. 4C). Moreover, RT-qPCR assay showed that E-cadherin expression was significantly lower in SNHG7 group than that in EV group (Fig. 4D), while N-cadherin expression and vimentin expression were higher in SNHG7 group than that in EV group (Fig. 4E). Meanwhile, western blot assay also showed similar results (Fig. 4F).
Association between SNHG7 and EMT process of NPC. (A) RT-qPCR results revealed that the expression of E-cadherin in EMT process of NPC was upregulated in sh-SNHG7 group compared with negative control (NC) group. (B) RT-qPCR results revealed that the expression of N-cadherin and vimentin in EMT process of NPC was downregulated in sh-SNHG7 group compared with NC group. (C) Western blot assay was used to detect the protein level of E-cadherin, N-cadherin and vimentin in EMT process of NPC after SNHG7 was knocked down. (D) RT-qPCR results revealed that the expression of E-cadherin in EMT process of NPC was downregulated in SNHG7 group compared with EV group. (E) RT-qPCR results revealed that the expression of N-cadherin and vimentin in EMT process of NPC was upregulated in SNHG7 group compared with EV group. (F) Western blot assay was used to detect the protein level of E-cadherin, N-cadherin and vimentin in EMT process of NPC after SNHG7 was overexpressed. The results represent the average of three independent experiments (mean ± standard error of the mean). *P<0.05. SNHG7, small nucleolar RNA host gene 7; NPC, nasopharyngeal carcinoma; EMT, epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition.
The altered expression of lncRNAs have been reported to be associated with the progression of NPC. For example, upregulated expression of lncRNA AFAP1-AS1 promotes the progression of NPC which is negatively related to the poor prognosis of NPC patients (8). Through interacting with miR-630, lncRNA H19 promotes cell invasion in NPC via regulating the expression of EZH2 (9). lncRNA FOXCUT facilitates cell proliferation and cell migration in NPC via targeting FOXC1 which may be a potential NPC biomarker (10). lncRNA-LET acts as a tumor suppressor in NPC by inhibiting proliferation, adhesion and invasion of NPC cells (11).
SNHG7 is 2176 bp in length and is located on chromosome 9q34.3. Emerging research has indicated that SNHG7 is upregulated in many cancers and acts as an oncogene. For example, through miR-503/cyclin D1 pathway, lncRNA SNHG7 promotes cycle progression and cell proliferation in cervical cancer (12). By enhancing miR-193b expression and reducing FAIM2 level, SNHG7 promotes the progression of non-small cell lung cancer (13). As a sponge of miR-503, SNHG7 enhances cell proliferation and cycle progression in prostate cancer through cyclin D1 (12). Through activating Wnt/β-catenin signal pathway, silence of SNHG7 inhibits tumor growth and cell migration in bladder cancer (14). In the current study, we conducted experiments to identify the function of SNHG7 in NPC. Results suggested that SNHG7 was upregulated in both NPC samples and cells. Besides, NPC migration and invasion were found to be inhibited via knockdown of SNHG7, while NPC migration and invasion were found to be promoted via overexpression of SNHG7. Experiments in vivo also showed that the promotion of tumor metastasis was induced by SNHG7. The above results indicated that SNHG7 enhanced metastasis of NPC and might act as an oncogene.
EMT is a developmental trans-differentiation progression which has been reported to be involved in many molecular changes. It is characterized as the progressive loss of cell-to-cell intercellular contacts such as adherent junctions, desmosomes and tight junctions, which contributes to their disassociation from epithelial sheets. Moreover, changes in cell polarity, cleavage and invasion of the basal lamina finally lead to progressive upregulation of mesenchymal gene expression. For example, URG11 promotes cell proliferation and EMT in benign prostatic hyperplasia cells through RhoA/ROCK1 pathway (15). EMT is closely related to poor tumor differentiation in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma which can be increased by gemcitabine (16). Through activation of ZEB1 and interaction with miR-139-5p, lncRNA HCP5 enhances EMT in colorectal cancer (17).
As E-cadherin, vimentin and N-cadherin are vital proteins in the process of EMT, we detected the changes of these proteins after knockdown or overexpression of SNHG7 in NPC cells. Results showed that the EMT process was inhibited by knockdown of SNHG7 and was remarkably induced by overexpression of SNHG7. All the results above suggested that SNHG7 could activate EMT process during metastasis of NPC.
In conclusion, above data identified that SNHG7 enhanced NPC metastasis through inducing EMT process. These findings implied that lncRNA SNHG7 could serve as a candidate target for NPC.
No funding was received.
Availability of data and materials
All data generated or analyzed during this study are included in this published article.
WX and YJ designed the study and performed the experiments, WX and XS collected the data, YJ and CZ analyzed the data, WX and YJ prepared the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
Ethics approval and consent to participate
This study was approved by the Ethics Committee of The Affiliated Hospital of Qingdao University (Qingdao, China). Signed written informed consents were obtained from the patients and/or guardians. This study was approved by the Animal Ethics Committee of Qingdao University Animal Center.
Patient consent for publication
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
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