Epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is a key process contributing to cervical cancer (CC) metastasis, and microRNAs (miRNAs) modulate the expression of genes implicated in EMT. However, the accurate role of miR-361 in CC-associated EMT and the mechanisms underlying its function in CC remains largely unknown. The functional roles of miR-361 in CC cells were explored by a series of cell functional assays. Luciferase reporter assays were used to demonstrate the potential interaction between miR-361, HSP90 and long non-coding RNA (lncRNA) NEAT1. We detected a consistent reduction of miR-361 expression in CC tissues and CC cell lines, and miR-361 overexpression inhibited invasion and EMT phenotypes of CC cells by directly targeting a key EMT activator HSP90. Additionally, we detected significantly higher levels of HSP90 in CC tissues compared with normal tissues, and high expression of HSP90 predicted a poorer prognosis. We further identified NEAT1 as a significantly upregulated lncRNA in CC tissues and high expression of NEAT1 was associated with worse survival in CC patients. NEAT1 directly repressed miR-361 expression and played an oncogenic role in CC cell invasion and sphere formation. These results demonstrated that miR-361 directly targets HSP90 to inhibit the invasion and EMT features, and NEAT1 functions as an oncogenic lncRNA that suppresses miR-361 expression and induces EMT and sphere formation in CC cells, thus providing critical insights into the molecular pathways operating in this malignancy.
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