LncRNA HULC triggers autophagy via stabilizing Sirt1 and attenuates the chemosensitivity of HCC cells

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Considerable evidences have shown that autophagy has an important role in tumor chemoresistance. However, it is still unknown whether the lncRNA HULC (highly upregulated in liver cancer) is involved in autophagy and chemoresistance of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). In this study, we for the first time demonstrated that treatment with antitumor reagents such as oxaliplatin, 5-fluorouracil and pirarubicin (THP) dramatically induced HULC expression and protective autophagy. Silencing of HULC sensitized HCC cells to the three antitumor reagents via inhibiting protective autophagy. Ectopic expression of HULC elicited the autophagy of HCC cells through stabilizing silent information regulator 1 (Sirt1) protein. The investigation for the corresponding mechanism by which HULC stabilized Sirt1 revealed that HULC upregulated ubiquitin-specific peptidase 22 (USP22), leading to the decrease of ubiquitin-mediated degradation of Sirt1 protein by removing the conjugated polyubiquitin chains from Sirt1. Moreover, we found that miR-6825-5p, miR-6845-5p and miR-6886-3p could decrease the level of USP22 protein by binding to the 3′-untranlated region of USP22 mRNA. All the three microRNAs (miRNAs) were downregulated by HULC, which resulted in the elevation of USP22. In addition, we showed that the level of HULC was positively correlated with that of Sirt1 protein in human HCC tissues. Collectively, our data reveals that the pathway ‘HULC/USP22/Sirt1/ protective autophagy' attenuates the sensitivity of HCC cells to chemotherapeutic agents, suggesting that this pathway may be a novel target for developing sensitizing strategy to HCC chemotherapy.

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