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Carcinogenesis. 2013 Aug;34(8):1773-81. doi: 10.1093/carcin/bgt139. Epub 2013 Apr 24.

Pseudogene OCT4-pg4 functions as a natural micro RNA sponge to regulate OCT4 expression by competing for miR-145 in hepatocellular carcinoma.

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State Key Laboratory of Cancer Biology, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Fourth Military Medical University, Xi’an, China.


The POU transcription factor OCT4 is a pleiotropic regulator of gene expression in embryonic stem cells. Recent studies demonstrated that OCT4 is aberrantly expressed in multiple types of human cancer; however, the underlying molecular mechanism remains largely unknown. In this study, we report that OCT4-pg4, a pseudogene of OCT4, is abnormally activated in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). The expression level of OCT4-pg4 is positively correlated with that of OCT4, and both gene transcripts can be directly targeted by a tumor-suppressive micro RNA miR-145. We find that the non-coding RNA OCT4-pg4 is biologically active, as it can upregulate OCT4 protein level in HCC. Mechanistic analysis revealed that OCT4-pg4 functions as a natural micro RNA sponge to protect OCT4 transcript from being inhibited by miR-145. In addition, our study also showed that OCT4-pg4 can promote growth and tumorigenicity of HCC cells, thus exerting an oncogenic role in hepatocarcinogenesis. Furthermore, survival analysis suggests that high OCT4-pg4 level is significantly correlated with poor prognosis of HCC patients. Taken together, our finding adds a new layer of post-transcriptional regulation of OCT4 and sheds new light on the treatment of human HCC.

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