NEAT1 polyA-modulating antisense oligonucleotides reveal opposing functions for both long non-coding RNA isoforms in neuroblastoma

Alina Naveed, Jack A. Cooper, Ruohan Li, Alysia Hubbard, Jingwei Chen, Tao Liu, Steve D. Wilton, Sue Fletcher, Archa H. Fox

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)


Many long non-coding RNAs (lncRNA) are highly dysregulated in cancer and are emerging as therapeutic targets. One example is NEAT1, which consists of two overlapping lncRNA isoforms, NEAT1_1 (3.7 kb) and NEAT1_2 (23 kb), that are functionally distinct. The longer NEAT1_2 is responsible for scaffolding gene-regulatory nuclear bodies termed paraspeckles, whereas NEAT1_1 is involved in paraspeckle-independent function. The NEAT1 isoform ratio is dependent on the efficient cleavage and polyadenylation of NEAT1_1 at the expense of NEAT1_2. Here, we developed a targeted antisense oligonucleotide (ASO) approach to sterically block NEAT1_1 polyadenylation processing, achieving upregulation of NEAT1_2 and abundant paraspeckles. We have applied these ASOs to cells of the heterogeneous infant cancer, neuroblastoma, as we found higher NEAT1_1:NEAT1_2 ratio and lack of paraspeckles in high-risk neuroblastoma cells. These ASOs decrease NEAT1_1 levels, increase NEAT1_2/paraspeckles and concomitantly reduce cell viability in high-risk neuroblastoma specifically. In contrast, overexpression of NEAT1_1 has the opposite effect, increasing cell proliferation. Transcriptomic analyses of high-risk neuroblastoma cells with altered NEAT1 ratios and increased paraspeckle abundance after ASO treatment showed an upregulation of differentiation pathways, as opposed to the usual aggressive neuroblastic phenotype. Thus, we have developed potential anti-cancer ASO drugs that can transiently increase growth-inhibiting NEAT1_2 RNA at the expense of growth-promoting NEAT1_1 RNA. These ASOs, unlike others that degrade lncRNAs, provide insights into the importance of altering lncRNA polyadenylation events to suppress tumorigenesis as a strategy to combat cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2213-2230
Number of pages18
JournalCellular and Molecular Life Sciences
Issue number5
Early online date10 Sept 2020
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021


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