Background: PANoptosis is involved in the interaction of apoptosis, necroptosis and pyroptosis, playing a role in programmed cell death. Moreover, long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) regulate the PCD. This work aims to explore the role of PANoptosis-associated lncRNAs in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).

Methods: Co-expression analysis identified PANoptosis-associated lncRNAs in HCC. Cox and Least Absolute Shrinkage and Selection Operator (LASSO) algorithms were utilised to filter lncRNAs and establish a PANoptosis-related lncRNA index (PANRI). Additionally, Cox, Kaplan–Meier and receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curves were utilised to systematically evaluate the PANRI. Furthermore, Estimation of STromal and Immune cells in MAlignant Tumor tissues using Expression data (ESTIMATE), single sample gene set enrichment analysis (ssGSEA) and immune checkpoints were performed to analyse the potential of the PANRI in differentiating different tumour immune microenvironment (TIME) populations. The consensus clustering algorithm was used to distinguish individuals with HCC having different TIME subtypes. Finally, HCC cell lines HepG2 were utilised for further validation in in vitro experiments.

Results: The PANRI differentiates patients according to risk. Notably, ESTIMATE and ssGSEA algorithms revealed a high immune infiltration status in high-risk patients. Additionally, consensus clustering divided the patients into three clusters to identify different subtypes of TIME. Moreover, in vitro results showed that siRNA-mediated silencing of AL049840.4 inhibited the viability and migration of HepG2 cells and promoted apoptosis.

Conclusions: This is the first PANoptosis-related, lncRNA-based risk index in HCC to assess patient prognosis, TIME and response to immunotherapy. This study offers novel perspectives on the role of PANoptosis-associated lncRNAs in HCC.