BackgroundCircular RNAs (circRNAs) have recently been shown to play important roles in different tumors. However, their detailed roles and regulatory mechanisms in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) are not well understood. This study aimed to identify enriched circRNAs and detect their functions and mechanisms in PDAC cells and tissues.MethodscircRNA-ASH2L (circ-ASH2L) was identified by circRNA microarray studies based on previous studies, and further detected in PDAC cells and samples by qRT-PCR. The functions of circ-ASH2L were identified by transwell, EdU, cell cycle or Tube formation assays. The regulatory mechanisms of circ-ASH2L were explored by WB, RIP, FISH, dual-luciferase assays, RNA pulldown or other assays.ResultsWe identified a circRNA (circ-ASH2L) based on our previous studies, detected its expression in different malignant cells and found that circ-ASH2L was highly expressed in pancreatic cells or tumor tissues and correlated with tumor malignancy. Further studies revealed that circ-ASH2L promoted tumor invasion, proliferation and angiogenesis by regulating miR-34a, thus regulate Notch 1 expression. Circ-ASH2L served as a miRNA sponge for miR-34a and promoted tumor progression in vivo. Finally, we analyzed circ-ASH2L expression in clinical tissues and found that high circ-ASH2L expression was correlated with lymphatic invasion and TNM stage and was an independent risk factor for pancreatic patient survival.Conclusionscirc-ASH2L play an important role in tumor invasion, and high circ-ASH2L may be a useful marker of PDAC diagnosis or progression.