Circular RNAs (circRNAs) play important roles in cancer tumorigenesis and progression, representing prognostic biomarkers and therapeutic targets. In this case, we demonstrated the role of circ-NOLC1 in epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC). Our results have shown that Circ-NOLC1 expression was higher in EOC tissues than in normal tissues, and was positively associated with FIGO stage, differentiation. Among ovarian cancer cell lines, circ-NOLC1 expression was the highest in A2780, and lowest in CAOV3. Overexpression of circ-NOLC1 in CAOV3 cells increased cell proliferation, migration, and invasion ability, whereas silencing of circ-NOLC1 in A2780 cells had the opposite effect: however, neither circ-NOLC1 downregulation nor overexpression influenced NOLC1 mRNA expression. In nude mice with subcutaneous tumors, circ-NOLC1 downregulation decreased tumor growth. Bioinformatic analysis and RNA-binding protein immunoprecipitation showed that circ-NOLC1 could bind to ESRP1. In addition, the overexpression of circ-NOLC1 significantly increased ESRP1, RhoA, and CDK1 protein and mRNA expression level; circ-NOLC1 downregulation had the opposite effects. The tumor-promoting effect of circ-NOLC1 was inhibited by knockdown of ESRP1, CDK1, or RhoA expression in circ-NOLC1-overexpressing cells, which might act by modulating RhoA and CDK1 expression. In conclusion, our study demonstrated that Circ-NOLC1 might promote EOC tumorigenesis and development by binding ESRP1 and modulating CDK1 and RhoA expression.
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