MALAT1 has previously been described as a metastasis-promoting long noncoding RNA (lncRNA). We show here, however, that targeted inactivation of the Malat1 gene in a transgenic mouse model of breast cancer, without altering the expression of its adjacent genes, promotes lung metastasis, and that this phenotype can be reversed by genetic add-back of Malat1. Similarly, knockout of MALAT1 in human breast cancer cells induces their metastatic ability, which is reversed by re-expression of Malat1. Conversely, overexpression of Malat1 suppresses breast cancer metastasis in transgenic, xenograft, and syngeneic models. Mechanistically, the MALAT1 lncRNA binds and inactivates the prometastatic transcription factor TEAD, preventing TEAD from associating with its co-activator YAP and target gene promoters. Moreover, MALAT1 levels inversely correlate with breast cancer progression and metastatic ability. These findings demonstrate that MALAT1 is a metastasis-suppressing lncRNA rather than a metastasis promoter in breast cancer, calling for rectification of the model for this highly abundant and conserved lncRNA.

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Data availability

The data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request. The RNA-seq data have been deposited at the Gene Expression Omnibus under accession number GSE110239.

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We thank W. Muller for providing MMTV-PyMT mice (C57BL/6 background), X. Zhang for providing luciferase-expressing LM2 cells, and J. Jacobson and L. Xin for providing ITGB4–luciferase and FU-luciferase-CRW/RFP constructs, respectively. We thank J. Zhang and MD Anderson’s shRNA and ORFeome Core, Small Animal Imaging Facility, Flow Cytometry and Cellular Imaging Core Facility, Sequencing and Microarray Facility, and Characterized Cell Line Core Facility for technical assistance. We thank all members of the Ma laboratory for discussions; J. Chen for critical reading of the manuscript; and J.-H. Yoon and M. Gorospe for advice on the CLIP assay. L.M. is supported by US National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants R01CA166051 and R01CA181029; a Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) grant (RP150319); and a Stand Up To Cancer Innovative Research Grant (403235). M.J.Y. was supported in part by NIH grants R01CA164346 and R01CA200703, and CPRIT RP140402. M.-C.H. is supported by National Breast Cancer Foundation Inc. and The University of Texas MD Anderson-China Medical University and Hospital Sister Institution Fund. H. Liang is supported by NIH grants R01CA175486 and U24CA209851. M.J.E is supported by CPRIT grant RR140033. B.G. is supported by NIH grants R01CA181196 and R01CA190370.

Author information


  1. Department of Experimental Radiation Oncology, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX, USA

    • Jongchan Kim
    • , Hai-Long Piao
    • , Fan Yao
    • , Zhenna Xiao
    • , Ashley N. Siverly
    • , Sarah E. Lawhon
    • , Baochau N. Ton
    • , Hyemin Lee
    • , Zhicheng Zhou
    • , Boyi Gan
    •  & Li Ma
  2. CAS Key Laboratory of Separation Science for Analytical Chemistry, Scientific Research Center for Translational Medicine, Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Dalian, China

    • Hai-Long Piao
  3. Lester and Sue Smith Breast Center, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX, USA

    • Beom-Jun Kim
    •  & Matthew J. Ellis
  4. Department of Molecular and Cellular Oncology, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX, USA

    • Zhenbo Han
    • , Mien-Chie Hung
    •  & Yutong Sun
  5. Department of Bioinformatics and Computational Biology, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX, USA

    • Yumeng Wang
    •  & Han Liang
  6. The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center UTHealth Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Houston, TX, USA

    • Zhenna Xiao
    •  & Li Ma
  7. RNA Biology Laboratory, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Hokkaido University, Sapporo, Japan

    • Shinichi Nakagawa
  8. Graduate Institute of Biomedical Sciences and Center for Molecular Medicine, China Medical University, Taichung, Taiwan

    • Mien-Chie Hung
  9. Department of Hematopathology, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX, USA

    • M. James You


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J.K., Y.S. and L.M. conceived and designed the study. J.K. performed most experiments. H.-L.P. cloned mouse Malat1. B.-J.K. and M.J.E. performed mass-spectrometric analysis. F.Y. and Z.X. generated some constructs and cell lines and performed some experiments. Z.H. and M.-C.H. assisted with microscopy. Y.W. and H. Liang performed RNA-seq and other computational data analyses. A.N.S., S.E.L. and B.N.T. maintained and managed mouse colonies. H. Lee, Z.Z. and B.G. provided reagents and technical assistance. S.N. provided Malat1-knockout mice. M.J.Y. performed histopathological analysis. Y.S. generated some constructs and provided substantial intellectual input. J.K. and L.M. wrote the manuscript with input from all other authors. L.M. provided scientific direction, established collaborations, and allocated funding for this study.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Li Ma.

Supplementary information

  1. Supplementary Text and Figures

    Supplementary Figures 1–10, Supplementary Tables 1–3 and Supplementary Note

  2. Reporting Summary

  3. Supplementary Video 1

    Time-lapse video microscopy of control MDA-MB-231 cells

  4. Supplementary Video 2

    Time-lapse video microscopy of MALAT1-knockout MDA-MB-231 cells

  5. Supplementary Video 3

    Time-lapse video microscopy of MALAT1-knockout MDA-MB-231 cells with ectopic expression of mouse Malat1

  6. Supplementary Video 4

    Time-lapse video microscopy of control LM2 cells

  7. Supplementary Video 5

    Time-lapse video microscopy of Malat1-overexpressing LM2 cells

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