Long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs) emerge as important factors involved in the regulation of gene expression during normal tissue development. Abnormally expressed lncRNAs lead to the initiation of cancers, and also promote tumor cell proliferation and metastasis in various kinds of cancers. In acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL), it is general accepted that PML/RARα fusion protein acts as a transcriptional repressor, which disrupts the differentiation program, and arrests cells at the promyelocytic stage of myeloid differentiation. However, a significant amount of evidence has demonstrated that PML/RARα is not sufficient to cause APL and additional cooperating events are required for the development of APL. As the key regulators of cancers, the specific expression patterns and functions of lncRNAs involved in APL leukemogenesis are not clear. In our study, we aimed to identify APL-specific lncRNAs and explore the important biological roles of these dysregulated lncRNAs in APL leukemogenesis. To discover the unique dysregulated lncRNAs in APL, we first established a lncRNA identification pipeline by analyzing RNA-seq data of 171 AML patient samples from the TCGA database and totally obtained 3,892 lncRNAs. We further analyzed the differentially expressed lncRNAs in 16 APL patient samples compared with 155 non-APL AML patient samples and identified a total of 414 APL-specific lncRNAs. These unique lncRNAs in APL contained 219 APL-specific upregulated lncRNAs, such as CRNDE, PVT1, MEG3, etc., and 195 APL-specific downregulated lncRNAs, such as HOTAIRM1, NEAT1, HOXA-AS2, etc., which may serve as novel biomarkers for APL. We then evaluated the expression of these dysregulated lncRNAs in response to all- trans retinoic acid (ATRA), which is the first-line drug for APL therapy that efficiently induces APL cells differentiation. We analyzed our RNA-seq data of APL cell line NB4 treated with or without ATRA and performed gene set enrichment analysis (GSEA) to evaluate the potential association of APL-specific lncRNAs with the induction of ATRA treatment. We noticed that highly expressed lncRNAs in APL were significantly enriched in ATRA-downregulated lncRNAs dataset, and the APL-specific downregulated lncRNAs were enriched in ATRA-upregulated lncRNAs dataset. These results suggested that APL-dysregulated lncRNAs could also participate in ATRA-induced granulocytic differentiation. To further identify the possible functional roles of APL-specific dysregulated lncRNAs, we selected one of the APL-specific overexpressed lncRNA, CRNDE, which is involved in the pathogenesis of some solid tumors. We found that the highly expressed CRNDE could be repressed by ATRA in a time dependent manner. Furthermore, functional analysis was performed to identify the potential roles of CRNDE in the leukemogenesis and the differentiation therapy of APL. We designed CRNDE-specific shRNA to downregulate its expression in NB4 cells, and found that silencing of CRNDE could promote differentiation of NB4 cells and enhance ATRA-induced differentiation. Further RNA-seq analysis to explore the mechanism revealed that knockdown of CRNDE could affect the expression of a number of myeloid differentiation-associated genes and signaling pathways. Collectively, our studies have systematically identified a distinct set of lncRNAs in APL, which may serve as novel biomarkers for APL. The further functional analysis of CRNDE reveals its essential roles involved in the leukemogenesis and ATRA-induced differentiation of APL, which provides new insights into the underlying mechanisms of dysregulated lncRNAs in APL.


No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.

Author notes


Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.