Long non-coding RNA ZFAS1 is a major regulator of epithelial-mesenchymal transition through miR-200/ZEB1/E-cadherin, vimentin signaling in colon adenocarcinoma

Stephen J. O’Brien, Casey Fiechter, James Burton, Jacob Hallion, Mason Paas, Ankur Patel, Ajay Patel, Andre Rochet, Katharina Scheurlen, Sarah Gardner, Maurice Eichenberger, Harshini Sarojini, Sudhir Srivastava, Shesh Rai, Theodore Kalbfleisch, Hiram C. Polk, Susan Galandiuk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Colon adenocarcinoma is a common cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide. Epithelial-mesenchymal transition is a major regulator of cancer metastasis, and increased understanding of this process is essential to improve patient outcomes. Long non-coding RNA (lncRNA) are important regulators of carcinogenesis. To identify lncRNAs associated with colon carcinogenesis, we performed an exploratory differential gene expression analysis comparing paired colon adenocarcinoma and normal colon epithelium using an RNA-sequencing data set. This analysis identified lncRNA ZFAS1 as significantly increased in colon cancer compared to normal colon epithelium. This finding was validated in an institutional cohort using laser capture microdissection. ZFAS1 was also found to be principally located in the cellular cytoplasm. ZFAS1 knockdown was associated with decreased cellular proliferation, migration, and invasion in two colon cancer cell lines (HT29 and SW480). MicroRNA-200b and microRNA-200c (miR-200b and miR-200c) are experimentally validated targets of ZFAS1, and this interaction was confirmed using reciprocal gene knockdown. ZFAS1 knockdown regulated ZEB1 gene expression and downstream targets E-cadherin and vimentin. Knockdown of miR-200b or miR-200c reversed the effect of ZFAS1 knockdown in the ZEB1/E-cadherin, vimentin signaling cascade, and the effects of cellular migration and invasion, but not cellular proliferation. ZFAS1 knockdown was also associated with decreased tumor growth in an in vivo mouse model. These results demonstrate the critical importance of ZFAS1 as a regulator of the miR-200/ZEB1/E-cadherin, vimentin signaling cascade.

Original languageEnglish
Article number61
JournalCell Death Discovery
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the John W. Price and Barbara Thruston Atwood Price Trust and a grant from the Mary K. Oxley Foundation. This work was supported by the University of Louisville Cancer Education Program (NIH 2R25CA134283-06A1) and the American Society for Colon & Rectal Surgeons Medical Student Research Initiation Grant.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s).

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Cell Biology
  • Cancer Research


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