Theranostics 2021; 11(3):1396-1411. doi:10.7150/thno.53227

Research Paper

Circular RNA circDLC1 inhibits MMP1-mediated liver cancer progression via interaction with HuR

Hailing Liu1*, Tian Lan1*, Hui Li1*, Lin Xu1,2*, Xing Chen1, Haotian Liao1, Xiangzheng Chen1,2, Jinpeng Du1, Yunshi Cai1, Jinju Wang1, Xuefeng Li3,4, Jiwei Huang1✉, Kefei Yuan1,2✉, Yong Zeng1,2✉

1. Department of Liver Surgery & Liver Transplantation, State Key Laboratory of Biotherapy and Cancer Center, West China Hospital, Sichuan University and Collaborative Innovation Center of Biotherapy, Chengdu, 610041, China.
2. Laboratory of Liver Surgery, West China Hospital, Sichuan University, Chengdu, 610041, China.
3. School of Basic Medical Sciences, Guangzhou Medical University, Guangzhou, 511436, China.
4. Shenzhen Luohu People's Hospital, The Third Affiliated Hospital of Shenzhen University, Shenzhen, 518001, China.
*These authors contributed equally to this work.

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( See for full terms and conditions.
Liu H, Lan T, Li H, Xu L, Chen X, Liao H, Chen X, Du J, Cai Y, Wang J, Li X, Huang J, Yuan K, Zeng Y. Circular RNA circDLC1 inhibits MMP1-mediated liver cancer progression via interaction with HuR. Theranostics 2021; 11(3):1396-1411. doi:10.7150/thno.53227. Available from

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Rationale: circular RNAs (circRNAs) have been demonstrated to play a crucial role in cancer progression. KIAA1429, a key component of the m6A methyltransferase complex, has recently been reported to promote hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) progression by regulating the m6A methylation. The aim of present study is to investigate the role of circular RNAs in KIAA1429-mediated HCC progression.

Methods: RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) and methylated RNA immunoprecipitation sequencing (m6A-seq) were utilized to identify KIAA1429-regulated circRNAs. The effects of circDLC1 on proliferation and metastasis of hepatoma cells were examined in vitro and in vivo. RT-qPCR was used to measure the expression of circDLC1 in HCC tissues and hepatoma cells. RNA FISH, RIP assays and biotin-labeled RNA pull-down were used to investigate the downstream effector of circDLC1. The downstream targets of circDLC1 were identified using RNA-seq.

Results: Our data demonstrated that circDLC1 was downregulated in HCC tissues and closely relevant to favorable prognosis. Overexpression of circDLC1 inhibited the proliferation and motility of hepatoma cells in vitro and in vivo, while silencing of circDLC1 played the opposite role. Mechanistic investigations revealed that circDLC1 could bind to RNA-binding protein HuR, which subsequently reduced the interaction between HuR and MMP1 mRNAs, and thus inhibited the expression of MMP1, ultimately contributing to inhibition of HCC progression.

Conclusion: Our work suggests that circDLC1, a downstream target of KIAA1429, is a promising prognostic marker for HCC patients, and the circDLC1-HuR-MMP1 axis may serve as a potential therapeutic target for HCC treatment.

Keywords: Hepatocellular carcinoma, KIAA1429, circular RNA, RNA-binding protein HuR, MMP1