Abstract

Long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs) are overexpressed in many types of cancers, suggesting they may promote tumorigenesis. The lncRNA “highly upregulated in liver cancer” (HULC) promotes hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) by mechanisms that are not fully understood. In the present study, we showed that HULC is overexpressed in HCC tissues, which correlates with an unfavorable prognosis in HCC patients. We also found that HULC promotes the proliferation, migration, and invasion of HCC cells in vitro, and xenograft tumor growth in vivo. Our mechanistic studies showed that HULC works as a competing endogenous RNA for miR-2052, and that the MET receptor tyrosine kinase is a downstream target of miR-2052 in HCC. Furthermore, HULC inhibits miR-2052, thereby stimulating MET expression in HCC. Finally, MET overexpression reverses the effects of HULC depletion. In sum, our findings reveal a novel regulatory signaling cascade, the HULC/miR-2052/MET axis, which could potentially be exploited for therapeutic benefits in the treatment of HCC.