A novel protein AXIN1-295aa encoded by circAXIN1 activates the Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway to promote gastric cancer progression

Yin Peng, Yidan Xu, Xiaojing Zhang, Shiqi Deng, Yuan Yuan, Xiaonuan Luo, Md Tofazzal Hossain, Xiaohui Zhu, Kaining Du, Fan Hu, Yang Chen, Shanshan Chang, Xianling Feng, Xinmin Fan, Hassan Ashktorab, Duane Smoot, Stephen J. Meltzer, Gangqiang Hou, Yanjie Wei, Song LiYing Qin, Zhe Jin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Circular RNA (circRNA), a subclass of non-coding RNA, plays a critical role in cancer tumorigenesis and metastasis. It has been suggested that circRNA acts as a microRNA sponge or a scaffold to interact with protein complexes; however, its full range of functions remains elusive. Recently, some circRNAs have been found to have coding potential. Methods: To investigate the role of circRNAs in gastric cancer (GC), parallel sequencing was performed using five paired GC samples. Differentially expressed circAXIN1 was proposed to encode a novel protein. FLAG-tagged circRNA overexpression plasmid construction, immunoblotting, mass spectrometry, and luciferase reporter analyses were applied to confirm the coding potential of circAXIN1. Gain- and loss-of-function studies were conducted to study the oncogenic role of circAXIN1 and AXIN1-295aa on the proliferation, migration, invasion, and metastasis of GC cells in vitro and in vivo. The competitive interaction between AXIN1-295aa and adenomatous polyposis coli (APC) was investigated by immunoprecipitation analyses. Wnt signaling activity was observed using a Top/Fopflash assay, real-time quantitative RT-PCR, immunoblotting, immunofluorescence staining, and chromatin immunoprecipitation. Results: CircAXIN1 is highly expressed in GC tissues compared with its expression in paired adjacent normal gastric tissues. CircAXIN1 encodes a 295 amino acid (aa) novel protein, which was named AXIN1-295aa. CircAXIN1 overexpression enhances the cell proliferation, migration, and invasion of GC cells, while the knockdown of circAXIN1 inhibits the malignant behaviors of GC cells in vitro and in vivo. Mechanistically, AXIN1-295aa competitively interacts with APC, leading to dysfunction of the “destruction complex” of the Wnt pathway. Released β-catenin translocates to the nucleus and binds to the TCF consensus site on the promoter, inducing downstream gene expression. Conclusion: CircAXIN1 encodes a novel protein, AXIN1-295aa. AXIN1-295aa functions as an oncogenic protein, activating the Wnt signaling pathway to promote GC tumorigenesis and progression, suggesting a potential therapeutic target for GC.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number158
JournalMolecular Cancer
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • AXIN1
  • Translation
  • Wnt
  • circRNA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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