Upregulation of the long non-coding RNA AFAP1-AS1 affects the proliferation, invasion and survival of tongue squamous cell carcinoma via the Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway

Research paper by Ze-you Wang, Min Hu, Min-hui Dai, Jing Xiong, Shuai Zhang, Han-jiang Wu, Shan-shan Zhang, Zhao-jian Gong

Indexed on: 09 Jan '18Published on: 08 Jan '18Published in: Molecular Cancer


Long non-coding RNA (lncRNA) actin filament associated protein 1 antisense RNA1 (AFAP1-AS1) is oriented in an antisense direction to the protein-coding gene AFAP1 in the opposite strand. Previous studies showed that lncRNA AFAP1-AS1 was upregulated and acted as an oncogene in a variety of tumors. However, the expression and biological functions of lncRNA AFAP1-AS1 in tongue squamous cell carcinoma (TSCC) are still unknown.The expression level of AFAP1-AS1 was measured in 103 pairs of human TSCC tissues and corresponding adjacent normal tongue mucous tissues. The correlation between AFAP1-AS1 and the clinicopathological features was evaluated using the chi-square test. The effects of AFAP1-AS1 on TSCC cells were determined via a CCK-8 assay, clone formation assay, flow cytometry, wound healing assay and transwell assay. Furthermore, the effect of AFAP1-AS1 knockdown on the activation of the Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway was investigated. Finally, CAL-27 cells with AFAP1-AS1 knockdown were subcutaneously injected into nude mice to evaluate the effect of AFAP1-AS1 on tumor growth in vivo.In this study, we found that lncRNA AFAP1-AS1 was increased in TSCC tissues and that patients with high AFAP1-AS1 expression had a shorter overall survival. Short hairpin RNA (shRNA)-mediated AFAP1-AS1 knockdown significantly decreased the proliferation of TSCC cells. Furthermore, AFAP1-AS1 silencing partly inhibited cell migration and invasion. Inhibition of AFAP1-AS1 decreased the activity of the Wnt/β-catenin pathway and suppressed the expression of EMT-related genes (SLUG, SNAIL1, VIM, CADN, ZEB1, ZEB2, SMAD2 and TWIST1) in TSCC cells. In addition, CAL-27 cells with AFAP1-AS1 knockdown were injected into nude mice to investigate the effect of AFAP1-AS1 on tumorigenesis in vivo. Downregulation of AFAP1-AS1 suppressed tumor growth and inhibited the expression of EMT-related genes (SLUG, SNIAL1, VIM, ZEB1, NANOG, SMAD2, NESTIN and SOX2) in vivo.Taken together, our findings present a road map for targeting the newly identified lncRNA AFAP1-AS1 to suppress TSCC progression, and these results elucidate a novel potential therapeutic strategy for TSCC.