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1.  Network Modeling Identifies Molecular Functions Targeted by miR-204 to Suppress Head and Neck Tumor Metastasis 
PLoS Computational Biology  2010;6(4):e1000730.
Due to the large number of putative microRNA gene targets predicted by sequence-alignment databases and the relative low accuracy of such predictions which are conducted independently of biological context by design, systematic experimental identification and validation of every functional microRNA target is currently challenging. Consequently, biological studies have yet to identify, on a genome scale, key regulatory networks perturbed by altered microRNA functions in the context of cancer. In this report, we demonstrate for the first time how phenotypic knowledge of inheritable cancer traits and of risk factor loci can be utilized jointly with gene expression analysis to efficiently prioritize deregulated microRNAs for biological characterization. Using this approach we characterize miR-204 as a tumor suppressor microRNA and uncover previously unknown connections between microRNA regulation, network topology, and expression dynamics. Specifically, we validate 18 gene targets of miR-204 that show elevated mRNA expression and are enriched in biological processes associated with tumor progression in squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (HNSCC). We further demonstrate the enrichment of bottleneckness, a key molecular network topology, among miR-204 gene targets. Restoration of miR-204 function in HNSCC cell lines inhibits the expression of its functionally related gene targets, leads to the reduced adhesion, migration and invasion in vitro and attenuates experimental lung metastasis in vivo. As importantly, our investigation also provides experimental evidence linking the function of microRNAs that are located in the cancer-associated genomic regions (CAGRs) to the observed predisposition to human cancers. Specifically, we show miR-204 may serve as a tumor suppressor gene at the 9q21.1–22.3 CAGR locus, a well established risk factor locus in head and neck cancers for which tumor suppressor genes have not been identified. This new strategy that integrates expression profiling, genetics and novel computational biology approaches provides for improved efficiency in characterization and modeling of microRNA functions in cancer as compared to the state of art and is applicable to the investigation of microRNA functions in other biological processes and diseases.
Author Summary
MicroRNAs regulate the expression of genes in cells and are important in cancer development and progression. Designing new microRNA-based treatments requires the understanding of their mechanisms of action. Previous biological studies lack in depth since only a few genes are confirmed as microRNA targets. Additionally, key biological systems perturbed by altered microRNA functions in the context of cancer remain to be identified. Here, we demonstrate for the first time how genetic knowledge about the inheritance of cancer can be utilized jointly with data about the expression of genes in cancer samples to model deregulated microRNAs and their functions at multiple scales of biology. Our approach further uncovers previously unknown connections between microRNAs, their regulated genes, and their dynamics. Using head and neck cancer as a model, we predict the presence, functions, and gene targets of a new tumor suppressor microRNA in a cancer-associated chromosomal region where a candidate gene has not been identified. We then confirm their validity with extensive and thorough biological characterization and show attenuation of lung metastasis in mice. The discovery of molecular networks regulated by microRNAs could be exploited for the design of new treatments as an alternative to the single-gene target paradigm.
PMCID: PMC2848541  PMID: 20369013
2.  Relation between microRNA expression and progression and prognosis of gastric cancer: a microRNA expression analysis 
The Lancet. Oncology  2009;11(2):136-146.
Analyses of microRNA expression profiles have shown that many microRNAs are expressed aberrantly and correlate with tumorigenesis, progression, and prognosis of various haematological and solid tumours. We aimed to assess the relation between microRNA expression and progression and prognosis of gastric cancer.
353 gastric samples from two independent subsets of patients from Japan were analysed by microRNA microarray. MicroRNA expression patterns were compared between non-tumour mucosa and cancer samples, graded by diffuse and intestinal histological types and by progression-related factors (eg, depth of invasion, metastasis, and stage). Disease outcome was calculated by multivariable regression analysis to establish whether microRNAs are independent prognostic factors.
In 160 paired samples of non-tumour mucosa and cancer, 22 microRNAs were upregulated and 13 were downregulated in gastric cancer; 292 (83%) samples were distinguished correctly by this signature. The two histological subtypes of gastric cancer showed different microRNA signatures: eight microRNAs were upregulated in diffuse-type and four in intestinal-type cancer. In the progression-related signature, miR-125b, miR-199a, and miR-100 were the most important microRNAs involved. Low expression of let-7g (hazard ratio 2·6 [95% CI 1·3–4·9]) and miR-433 (2·1 [1·1–3·9]) and high expression of miR-214 (2·4 [1·2–4·5]) were associated with unfavourable outcome in overall survival independent of clinical covariates, including depth of invasion, lymph-node metastasis, and stage.
MicroRNAs are expressed differentially in gastric cancers, and histological subtypes are characterised by specific microRNA signatures. Unique microRNAs are associated with progression and prognosis of gastric cancer.
National Cancer Institute.
PMCID: PMC4299826  PMID: 20022810
3.  MicroRNA-126 Inhibits Tumor Cell Growth and Its Expression Level Correlates with Poor Survival in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Patients 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(8):e42978.
It is controversial whether microRNA-126 is a tumor suppressive or oncogenic miRNA. More experiments are needed to determine whether microRNA-126 is associated with non-small cell lung cancer risk and prognosis.
Over-expression of microRNA-126 was performed to evaluate the cell invasion and tumor growth in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cell lines and nude mouse xenograft model. Gain-of-function experiments and luciferase assays were performed to reveal the relationship between microRNA-126 and PI3K-Akt signal pathway in A549 cells. We analyzed the associations of the microRNA-126 expression between genetic variants within microRNA-126 and clinical information including smoking status, sex, age, and histological type and the tumor stage.
Over-expression of microRNA-126 in NSCLC cell lines decreased cell proliferation in vitro and tumor growth in the nude mouse xenograft model. And microRNA-126 repressed the activity of PI3K-Akt pathway by targeting binding sites in the 3′-untranslated region of PI3KR2 mRNA. The expression level of microRNA-126 was decreased in NSCLC lines and tumor tissues. The patients with low microRNA-126 expression had significantly poorer survival time than those with high microRNA-126 expression (means for survival time (month): 24.392±1.055 vs. 29.282±1.140, P = 0.005). However, there was no significant difference in the genotype and allele frequencies of the microRNA-126 variant (G>A, rs4636297) between cases and controls (P = 0.366). In addition, there was no association between SNP rs4636297 and survival time in NSCLC patients (P = 0.992). And microRNA-126 expression had no significant difference among the three genotype groups (P = 0.972).
Our data indicate that microRNA-126 is a tumor-suppressor gene in NSCLC and low microRNA-126 expression is a unfavorable prognostic factor in NSCLC patients. However, the regulatory mechanism of microRNA-126 remains to be elucidated in different normal and malignant tissues. Therefore, further research is needed to explore the tumor suppressive functions of microRNA-126 in NSCLC.
PMCID: PMC3416793  PMID: 22900072
4.  Clinicopathological Significance of MicroRNA-214 in Gastric Cancer and Its Effect on Cell Biological Behaviour 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e91307.
Accumulating evidence indicates that numerous microRNAs are involved in the tumorigenesis and progression of gastric cancer, while the clinical significance of microRNA-214 in gastric cancer is poorly understood and the exact role of microRNA-214 in gastric cancer remains obscure. In the present study, expression levels of microRNA-214 in 80 gastric carcinoma tissues, 18 nontumourous gastric tissues, and 4 types of gastric cancer cell lines were quantified by reverse transcription followed by real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR), and the relationship between microRNA-214 expression and cliniopathological characteristics including prognosis was explored. To investigate the potential role of microRNA-214 in gastric cancer cell biological behaviour, we performed cell proliferation, apoptosis, migration and invasion assays in four gastric cancer cell lines and an immortalized gastric cell line in vitro. Our results showed that microRNA-214 was dramatically downregulated in gastric cancer tissues and gastric cancer cell lines, compared with nontumourous gastric tissues. Stepwise downregulation of microRNA-214 expression was observed among nontumourous gastric mucosa, nonmetastasis gastric cancer tissues, and metastasis gastric cancer tissues. The expression of microRNA-214 was significantly inversely correlated with lymph node metastasis and tumour size but had no correlation with the patient's prognosis. Ectopic expression of microRNA-214 could inhibit cell migration and invasion ability in SGC7901 and MKN45 gastric cancer cells. And knockdown of microRNA-214 significantly facilitated cell proliferation, migration and invasion in a cell-specific manner in MKN28, BGC823 and GES-1 cells. Colony stimulating factor 1 (CSF1) was identified as a target gene of microRNA-214. In summary, our data demonstrated that microRNA-214 is a promising novel biomarker for lymph node metastasis in patients with gastric cancer. And we identified that downregulation of microRNA-214 may regulate the proliferation, invasion and migration of gastric cancer cells by directly targeting CSF1.
PMCID: PMC3948864  PMID: 24614175
5.  Identifying microRNA/mRNA dysregulations in ovarian cancer 
BMC Research Notes  2012;5:164.
MicroRNAs are a class of noncoding RNA molecules that co-regulate the expression of multiple genes via mRNA transcript degradation or translation inhibition. Since they often target entire pathways, they may be better drug targets than genes or proteins. MicroRNAs are known to be dysregulated in many tumours and associated with aggressive or poor prognosis phenotypes. Since they regulate mRNA in a tissue specific manner, their functional mRNA targets are poorly understood. In previous work, we developed a method to identify direct mRNA targets of microRNA using patient matched microRNA/mRNA expression data using an anti-correlation signature. This method, applied to clear cell Renal Cell Carcinoma (ccRCC), revealed many new regulatory pathways compromised in ccRCC. In the present paper, we apply this method to identify dysregulated microRNA/mRNA mechanisms in ovarian cancer using data from The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA).
TCGA Microarray data was normalized and samples whose class labels (tumour or normal) were ambiguous with respect to consensus ensemble K-Means clustering were removed. Significantly anti-correlated and correlated genes/microRNA differentially expressed between tumour and normal samples were identified. TargetScan was used to identify gene targets of microRNA.
We identified novel microRNA/mRNA mechanisms in ovarian cancer. For example, the expression level of RAD51AP1 was found to be strongly anti-correlated with the expression of hsa-miR-140-3p, which was significantly down-regulated in the tumour samples. The anti-correlation signature was present separately in the tumour and normal samples, suggesting a direct causal dysregulation of RAD51AP1 by hsa-miR-140-3p in the ovary. Other pairs of potentially biological relevance include: hsa-miR-145/E2F3, hsa-miR-139-5p/TOP2A, and hsa-miR-133a/GCLC. We also identified sets of positively correlated microRNA/mRNA pairs that are most likely result from indirect regulatory mechanisms.
Our findings identify novel microRNA/mRNA relationships that can be verified experimentally. We identify both generic microRNA/mRNA regulation mechanisms in the ovary as well as specific microRNA/mRNA controls which are turned on or off in ovarian tumours. Our results suggest that the disease process uses specific mechanisms which may be significant for their utility as early detection biomarkers or in the development of microRNA therapies in treating ovarian cancers. The positively correlated microRNA/mRNA pairs suggest the existence of novel regulatory mechanisms that proceed via intermediate states (indirect regulation) in ovarian tumorigenesis.
PMCID: PMC3342161  PMID: 22452920
6.  MicroRNA Expression in Ileal Carcinoid Tumors: Down-regulation of MicroRNA-133a with Tumor Progression 
MicroRNAs are involved in cell proliferation, differentiation, and apoptosis and can function as tumor suppressor genes or oncogenes. The role of microRNAs in neuroendocrine tumors such as ileal carcinoids is largely unknown. We examined the differential expression of 95 microRNAs by RT-PCR using the QuantiMir System in eight matching primary and metastatic carcinoid tumors from the ileum. All microRNAs chosen for the QuantiMir System Array were based on their potential functions related to cancer biology, cell development and apoptosis. The expression of microRNAs for the samples was normalized to microRNA-197, and the matching primary and metastatic tumors were compared. There was down-regulation of microRNA-133a, 145, 146, 222 and 10b in all samples between the primary and matching metastatic tumors and up-regulation of microRNA-183, 488 and 19a + b in six of eight metastatic carcinoids compared to the primary tumors. MicroRNA-133a was further analyzed by TaqMan Real Time RT-PCR and Northern hybridization using six additional matching primary and metastatic samples which supported the PCR Array findings. There were significant differences in microRNA-133a expression with down-regulation in the metastasis compared to the primary in the eight original cases (p<0.009) and in the six additional cases used for validation (p<0.014). Laser capture microdissection and Real Time RT-PCR analysis using normal ileum found microRNA-133a expression in normal enterochromaffin cells. In situ hybridization in normal ileum showed that some of the mucosal endocrine cells expressed microRNA-133a. Both primary and metastatic ileal carcinoid tumors expressed microRNA-133a by in situ hybridization. These results provide information about novel marker microRNAs that may be used as biomarkers and/or therapeutic targets in intestinal carcinoid tumors.
PMCID: PMC2886953  PMID: 20037573
PCR array; carcinoids; enterochromaffin cells; RT-PCR; in situ hybridization
7.  Profiling and Functional Analyses of MicroRNAs and Their Target Gene Products in Human Uterine Leiomyomas 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(8):e12362.
Human uterine leiomyomas (ULM) are characterized by dysregulation of a large number of genes and non-coding regulatory microRNAs. In order to identify microRNA::mRNA associations relevant to ULM pathogenesis, we examined global correlation patterns between the altered microRNA expression and the predicted target genes in ULMs and matched myometria.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Patterns of inverse association of microRNA with mRNA expression in ULMs revealed an involvement of multiple candidate pathways, including extensive transcriptional reprogramming, cell proliferation control, MAP kinase, TGF-β, WNT, JAK/STAT signaling, remodeling of cell adhesion, and cell-cell and cell-matrix contacts. We further examined the correlation between the expression of the selected target gene protein products and microRNAs in thirty-six paired sets of leiomyomas and matched myometria. We found that a number of dysregulated microRNAs were inversely correlated with their targets at the protein level. The comparative genomic hybridization (CGH) in eight ULM patients revealed that partially shared deletions of two distinct chromosomal regions might be responsible for loss of cancer–associated microRNA expression and could thus contribute to the ULM pathogenesis via deregulation of target mRNAs. Last, we functionally tested the repressor effects of selected cancer-related microRNAs on their predicted target genes in vitro.
We found that some but not all of the predicted and inversely correlated target genes in ULMs can be directly regulated by microRNAs in vitro. Our findings provide a broad overview of molecular events underlying the tumorigenesis of uterine ULMs and identify select genetic and regulatory events that alter microRNA expression and may play important roles in ULM pathobiology by positively regulating tumor growth while maintaining the non-invasive character of ULMs.
PMCID: PMC2927438  PMID: 20808773
8.  Estrogen Mediated-Activation of miR-191/425 Cluster Modulates Tumorigenicity of Breast Cancer Cells Depending on Estrogen Receptor Status 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(3):e1003311.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs), single-stranded non-coding RNAs, influence myriad biological processes that can contribute to cancer. Although tumor-suppressive and oncogenic functions have been characterized for some miRNAs, the majority of microRNAs have not been investigated for their ability to promote and modulate tumorigenesis. Here, we established that the miR-191/425 cluster is transcriptionally dependent on the host gene, DALRD3, and that the hormone 17β-estradiol (estrogen or E2) controls expression of both miR-191/425 and DALRD3. MiR-191/425 locus characterization revealed that the recruitment of estrogen receptor α (ERα) to the regulatory region of the miR-191/425-DALRD3 unit resulted in the accumulation of miR-191 and miR-425 and subsequent decrease in DALRD3 expression levels. We demonstrated that miR-191 protects ERα positive breast cancer cells from hormone starvation-induced apoptosis through the suppression of tumor-suppressor EGR1. Furthermore, enforced expression of the miR-191/425 cluster in aggressive breast cancer cells altered global gene expression profiles and enabled us to identify important tumor promoting genes, including SATB1, CCND2, and FSCN1, as targets of miR-191 and miR-425. Finally, in vitro and in vivo experiments demonstrated that miR-191 and miR-425 reduced proliferation, impaired tumorigenesis and metastasis, and increased expression of epithelial markers in aggressive breast cancer cells. Our data provide compelling evidence for the transcriptional regulation of the miR-191/425 cluster and for its context-specific biological determinants in breast cancers. Importantly, we demonstrated that the miR-191/425 cluster, by reducing the expression of an extensive network of genes, has a fundamental impact on cancer initiation and progression of breast cancer cells.
Author Summary
MicroRNAs are small noncoding RNAs that act as posttranscriptional repressors of gene expression. A pivotal role for miRNAs in all the molecular processes driving initiation and progression of various malignancies, including breast cancer, has been described. Divergent miRNA expression between normal and neoplastic breast tissues has been demonstrated, as well as differential miRNA expression among the molecular subtypes of breast cancer. Over half of all breast cancers overexpress ERα, and several studies have shown that miRNA expression is controlled by ERα. We assessed the global change in microRNA expression after estrogen starvation and stimulation in breast cancer cells and identified that miR-191/425 and the host gene DALRD3 are positively associated to ERα-positive tumors. We demonstrated that ERα regulates the miR-191/425 cluster and verified the existence of a transcriptional network that allows a dual effect of estrogen on miR-191/425 and their host gene. We show that estrogen induction of miR-191/425 supports in vitro and in vivo the estrogen-dependent proliferation of ERα positive breast cancer cells. On the contrary, miR-191/425 cluster reprograms gene expression to impair tumorigenicity and metastatic potential of highly aggressive ERα negative breast cancer cells.
PMCID: PMC3591271  PMID: 23505378
9.  The Role of MicroRNAs in Ovarian Cancer 
BioMed Research International  2014;2014:249393.
Ovarian cancer is the most lethal of malignant gynecological tumors. Its lethality may be due to difficulties in detecting it at an early stage and lack of effective treatments for patients with an advanced or recurrent status. Therefore, there is a strong need for prognostic and predictive markers to diagnose it early and to help optimize and personalize treatment. MicroRNAs are noncoding RNAs that regulate target genes posttranscriptionally. They are involved in carcinogenesis, cell cycle, apoptosis, proliferation, invasion, metastasis, and chemoresistance. The dysregulation of microRNAs is involved in the initiation and progression of human cancers including ovarian cancer, and strong evidence that microRNAs can act as oncogenes or tumor suppressor genes has emerged. Several microRNA signatures that are unique to ovarian cancer have been proposed, and serum-circulating microRNAs have the potential to be useful diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers. Various microRNAs such as those in the miR-200 family, the miR-199/214 cluster, or the let-7 paralogs have potential as therapeutic targets for disseminated or chemoresistant ovarian tumors. Although many obstacles need to be overcome, microRNA therapy could be a powerful tool for ovarian cancer prevention and treatment. In this review, we discuss the emerging roles of microRNAs in various aspects of ovarian cancer.
PMCID: PMC4177088  PMID: 25295252
10.  MicroRNA expression profile in head and neck cancer: HOX-cluster embedded microRNA-196a and microRNA-10b dysregulation implicated in cell proliferation 
BMC Cancer  2013;13:533.
Current evidence implicates aberrant microRNA expression patterns in human malignancies; measurement of microRNA expression may have diagnostic and prognostic applications. Roles for microRNAs in head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCC) are largely unknown. HNSCC, a smoking-related cancer, is one of the most common malignancies worldwide but reliable diagnostic and prognostic markers have not been discovered so far. Some studies have evaluated the potential use of microRNA as biomarkers with clinical application in HNSCC.
MicroRNA expression profile of oral squamous cell carcinoma samples was determined by means of DNA microarrays. We also performed gain-of-function assays for two differentially expressed microRNA using two squamous cell carcinoma cell lines and normal oral keratinocytes. The effect of the over-expression of these molecules was evaluated by means of global gene expression profiling and cell proliferation assessment.
Altered microRNA expression was detected for a total of 72 microRNAs. Among these we found well studied molecules, such as the miR-17-92 cluster, comprising potent oncogenic microRNA, and miR-34, recently found to interact with p53. HOX-cluster embedded miR-196a/b and miR-10b were up- and down-regulated, respectively, in tumor samples. Since validated HOX gene targets for these microRNAs are not consistently deregulated in HNSCC, we performed gain-of-function experiments, in an attempt to outline their possible role. Our results suggest that both molecules interfere in cell proliferation through distinct processes, possibly targeting a small set of genes involved in cell cycle progression.
Functional data on miRNAs in HNSCC is still scarce. Our data corroborate current literature and brings new insights into the role of microRNAs in HNSCC. We also show that miR-196a and miR-10b, not previously associated with HNSCC, may play an oncogenic role in this disease through the deregulation of cell proliferation. The study of microRNA alterations in HNSCC is an essential step to the mechanistic understanding of tumor formation and could lead to the discovery of clinically relevant biomarkers.
PMCID: PMC3826519  PMID: 24209638
11.  Distinct microRNA alterations characterize high and low grade bladder cancer 
Cancer research  2009;69(21):8472-8481.
Urothelial carcinoma of the bladder (UCC) is a common disease that arises by at least two different molecular pathways. The biology of UCC is incompletely understood, making the management of this disease difficult. Recent evidence implicates a regulatory role for microRNA in cancer. We hypothesized that altered microRNA expression contributes to UCC carcinogenesis. To test this hypothesis we examined the expression of 322 microRNAs and their processing machinery in 78 normal and malignant urothelial samples using realtime rtPCR. Genes targeted by differentially expressed microRNA were investigated using realtime quantification and microRNA knock-down. We also examined the role of aberrant DNA hypermethylation in microRNA down-regulation. We found that altered microRNA expression is common in UCC and occurs early in tumorogenesis. In normal urothelium from patients with UCC 11% of microRNA’s had altered expression when compared to disease-free controls. This was associated with upregulation of Dicer, Drosha and Exportin 5. In UCC, microRNA alterations occur in a tumor phenotype-specific manner and can predict disease progression. High-grade UCC were characterized by microRNA upregulation, including microRNA-21 that suppresses p53 function. In low-grade UCC there was down-regulation of many microRNA molecules. In particular, loss of microRNAs-99a/100 leads to upregulation of FGFR3 prior to its mutation. Promoter hypermethylation is partly responsible for microRNA down-regulation. In conclusion, distinct microRNA alterations characterize UCC and target genes in a pathway-specific manner. These data reveal new insights into the disease biology and have implications regarding tumor diagnosis, prognosis and therapy.
PMCID: PMC2871298  PMID: 19843843
12.  Identifying mRNA targets of microRNA dysregulated in cancer: with application to clear cell Renal Cell Carcinoma 
BMC Systems Biology  2010;4:51.
MicroRNA regulate mRNA levels in a tissue specific way, either by inducing degradation of the transcript or by inhibiting translation or transcription. Putative mRNA targets of microRNA identified from seed sequence matches are available in many databases. However, such matches have a high false positive rate and cannot identify tissue specificity of regulation.
We describe a simple method to identify direct mRNA targets of microRNA dysregulated in cancers from expression level measurements in patient matched tumor/normal samples. The word "direct" is used here in a strict sense to: a) represent mRNA which have an exact seed sequence match to the microRNA in their 3'UTR, b) the seed sequence match is strictly conserved across mouse, human, rat and dog genomes, c) the mRNA and microRNA expression levels can distinguish tumor from normal with high significance and d) the microRNA/mRNA expression levels are strongly and significantly anti-correlated in tumor and/or normal samples. We apply and validate the method using clear cell Renal Cell Carcinoma (ccRCC) and matched normal kidney samples, limiting our analysis to mRNA targets which undergo degradation of the mRNA transcript because of a perfect seed sequence match. Dysregulated microRNA and mRNA are first identified by comparing their expression levels in tumor vs normal samples. Putative dysregulated microRNA/mRNA pairs are identified from these using seed sequence matches, requiring that the seed sequence be conserved in human/dog/rat/mouse genomes. These are further pruned by requiring a strong anti-correlation signature in tumor and/or normal samples. The method revealed many new regulations in ccRCC. For instance, loss of miR-149, miR-200c and mir-141 causes gain of function of oncogenes (KCNMA1, LOX), VEGFA and SEMA6A respectively and increased levels of miR-142-3p, miR-185, mir-34a, miR-224, miR-21 cause loss of function of tumor suppressors LRRC2, PTPN13, SFRP1, ERBB4, and (SLC12A1, TCF21) respectively. We also found strong anti-correlation between VEGFA and the miR-200 family of microRNA: miR-200a*, 200b, 200c and miR-141. Several identified microRNA/mRNA pairs were validated on an independent set of matched ccRCC/normal samples. The regulation of SEMA6A by miR-141 was verified by a transfection assay.
We describe a simple and reliable method to identify direct gene targets of microRNA in any cancer. The constraints we impose (strong dysregulation signature for microRNA and mRNA levels between tumor/normal samples, evolutionary conservation of seed sequence and strong anti-correlation of expression levels) remove spurious matches and identify a subset of robust, tissue specific, functional mRNA targets of dysregulated microRNA.
PMCID: PMC2876063  PMID: 20420713
13.  MicroRNA expression in multiple myeloma is associated with genetic subtype, isotype and survival 
Biology Direct  2011;6:23.
MicroRNAs are small RNA species that regulate gene expression post-transcriptionally and are aberrantly expressed in many cancers including hematological malignancies. However, the role of microRNAs in the pathogenesis of multiple myeloma (MM) is only poorly understood. We therefore used microarray analysis to elucidate the complete miRNome (miRBase version 13.0) of purified tumor (CD138+) cells from 33 patients with MM, 5 patients with monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS) and 9 controls.
Unsupervised cluster analysis revealed that MM and MGUS samples have a distinct microRNA expression profile from control CD138+ cells. The majority of microRNAs aberrantly expressed in MM (109/129) were up-regulated. A comparison of these microRNAs with those aberrantly expressed in other B-cell and T-cell malignancies revealed a surprising degree of similarity (~40%) suggesting the existence of a common lymphoma microRNA signature. We identified 39 microRNAs associated with the pre-malignant condition MGUS. Twenty-three (59%) of these were also aberrantly expressed in MM suggesting common microRNA expression events in MM progression. MM is characterized by multiple chromosomal abnormalities of varying prognostic significance. We identified specific microRNA signatures associated with the most common IgH translocations (t(4;14) and t(11;14)) and del(13q). Expression levels of these microRNAs were distinct between the genetic subtypes (by cluster analysis) and correctly predicted these abnormalities in > 85% of cases using the support vector machine algorithm. Additionally, we identified microRNAs associated with light chain only myeloma, as well as IgG and IgA-type MM. Finally, we identified 32 microRNAs associated with event-free survival (EFS) in MM, ten of which were significant by univariate (logrank) survival analysis.
In summary, this work has identified aberrantly expressed microRNAs associated with the diagnosis, pathogenesis and prognosis of MM, data which will prove an invaluable resource for understanding the role of microRNAs in this devastating disease.
This article was reviewed by Prof. Neil Smalheiser, Prof. Yuriy Gusev, and an unknown reviewer.
PMCID: PMC3120802  PMID: 21592325
14.  DNA methylation, microRNAs, and their crosstalk as potential biomarkers in hepatocellular carcinoma 
Epigenetic alterations have been identified as a major characteristic in human cancers. Advances in the field of epigenetics have contributed significantly in refining our knowledge of molecular mechanisms underlying malignant transformation. DNA methylation and microRNA expression are epigenetic mechanisms that are widely altered in human cancers including hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the third leading cause of cancer related mortality worldwide. Both DNA methylation and microRNA expression patterns are regulated in developmental stage specific-, cell type specific- and tissue-specific manner. The aberrations are inferred in the maintenance of cancer stem cells and in clonal cell evolution during carcinogenesis. The availability of genome-wide technologies for DNA methylation and microRNA profiling has revolutionized the field of epigenetics and led to the discovery of a number of epigenetically silenced microRNAs in cancerous cells and primary tissues. Dysregulation of these microRNAs affects several key signalling pathways in hepatocarcinogenesis suggesting that modulation of DNA methylation and/or microRNA expression can serve as new therapeutic targets for HCC. Accumulative evidence shows that aberrant DNA methylation of certain microRNA genes is an event specifically found in HCC which correlates with unfavorable outcomes. Therefore, it can potentially serve as a biomarker for detection as well as for prognosis, monitoring and predicting therapeutic responses in HCC.
PMCID: PMC4069317  PMID: 24976726
DNA methylation; MicroRNA; Epigenetics; Hepatocellular carcinoma; Biomarker
15.  Regulation of Cardiac microRNAs by Cardiac microRNAs 
Circulation research  2013;113(1):62-71.
MicroRNAs modestly suppress their direct mRNA targets and these direct effects are amplified by modulation of gene transcription pathways. Consequently, indirect mRNA modulatory effects of microRNAs to increase or decrease mRNAs greatly outnumber direct target suppressions. Because microRNAs are products of transcription, the potential exists for microRNAs that regulate transcription to regulate other microRNAs.
Determine if cardiac-expressed microRNAs regulate expression of other cardiac microRNAs, and measure the impact of microRNA-mediated microRNA regulation on indirect regulation of non-target mRNAs.
Methods and Results
Transgenic expression of pre-microRNAs was used to generate mouse hearts expressing 6-16 fold normal levels of miR-143, miR-378, and miR-499. Genome-wide mRNA and microRNA signatures were established using deep sequencing; expression profiles provoked by each microRNA were defined. miR-143 suppressed its direct cardiac mRNA target hexokinase 2, but exhibited little indirect target regulation and did not regulate other cardiac microRNAs. Both miR-378 and miR-499 indirectly regulated hundreds of cardiac mRNAs and 15-30 cardiac microRNAs. MicroRNA overexpression did not alter normal processing of either transgenic or endogenous cardiac microRNAs, and microRNA-mediated regulation of other microRNAs encoded within parent genes occurred in tandem with parent mRNAs. MicroRNA regulation by miR-378 and miR-499 was stimulus-specific, and contributed to observed mRNA downregulation.
MicroRNAs that modulate cardiac transcription can indirectly regulate other microRNAs. Transcriptional modulation by microRNAs, and microRNA-mediated microRNA regulation, help explain how small direct effects of microRNAs are amplified to generate striking phenotypes.
PMCID: PMC3769967  PMID: 23625950
microRNA; deep sequencing; transcriptional regulation; translational regulation; myocardial; genetics; transgenic models
16.  Association of inflammation-related and microRNA gene expression with cancer specific mortality of colon adenocarcinoma 
Translational Relevance
We report that the expression pattern of inflammatory-related genes in tumors and paired noncancerous tissues was an independent prognostic marker for colon adenocarcinoma patients. This gene signature was associated with prognosis in early stage patients. Therefore, this gene signature may be useful to identify high risk, early stage patients to assist in decisions regarding appropriate therapeutic intervention. We also show that combining independent biomarkers can improve predictions over single biomarkers. The combination of the inflammatory gene signature with available microRNA-21 expression data improved predictions with prognosis over either alone. These findings demonstrate the potential of IRS and/or microRNA-21 to be used as prognostic biomarkers for early stage colon cancer.
Inflammatory genes and microRNAs have roles in colon carcinogenesis; therefore, they may provide useful biomarkers for colon cancer. This study examines the potential clinical utility of an inflammatory gene expression signature as a prognostic biomarker for colon cancer in addition to previously examined microRNA-21 expression.
Experimental Design
Quantitative RTPCR measured the expression 23 inflammatory genes in colon adenocarcinomas and adjacent noncancerous tissues from 196 patients. These data were used to develop models for cancer-specific mortality on a training cohort (n=57) and this model was tested in both a test (n=56) and validation (n=83) cohort. Expression data for microRNA-21 was available for these patients and was compared to and combined with inflammatory gene expression.
PRG1, IL-10, CD68, IL-23a, and IL-12a expression in noncancerous tissue and PRG1, ANXA1, IL-23a, IL-17a, FOXP3 and HLA-DRA expression in tumor tissues were associated with poor prognosis based on Cox regression (|Z-score| > 1.5) and were used to generate the inflammatory risk score (IRS). IRS was associated with cancer-specific mortality in the training, test (P=0.01) and validation (P=0.02) cohorts. This association was strong for stage II cases (P=0.002). microRNA-21 expression was associated with IL-6, IL-8, IL-10, IL-12a and NOS2a, providing evidence that the function of this microRNA and these inflammatory genes are linked. Both IRS and microRNA-21 expression were independently associated with cancer-specific mortality, including stage II patients alone.
IRS and microRNA-21 expression are independent predictors of colon cancer prognosis and may provide a clinically useful tool to identify high risk patients.
PMCID: PMC2745503  PMID: 19737943
17.  Review of MicroRNA Deregulation in Oral Cancer. Part I 
Oral cancer is the sixth most common malignancy worldwide. Cancer development and progression requires inactivation of tumour suppressor genes and activation of proto-oncogenes. Expression of these genes is in part dependant on RNA and microRNA based mechanisms. MicroRNAs are essential regulators of diverse cellular processes including proliferation, differentiation, apoptosis, survival, motility, invasion and morphogenesis. Several microRNAs have been found to be aberrantly expressed in various cancers including oral cancer. The purpose of this article was to review the literature related to microRNA deregulation in the head and neck/oral cavity cancers.
Material and Methods
A comprehensive review of the available literature from 2000 to 2011 relevant to microRNA deregulation in oral cancer was undertaken using PubMed, Medline, Scholar Google and Scopus. Keywords for the search were: microRNA and oral cancer, microRNA and squamous cell carcinoma, microRNA deregulation. Only full length articles in the English language were included. Strengths and limitations of each study are presented in this review.
Several studies were identified that investigated microRNA alternations in the head and neck/oral cavity cancers. Significant progress has been made in identification of microRNA deregulation in these cancers. It has been evident that several microRNAs were found to be deregulated specifically in oral cavity cancers. Among these, several microRNAs have been functionally validated and their potential target genes have been identified.
These findings on microRNA deregulation in cancer further enhance our understanding of the disease progression, response to treatment and may assist with future development of targeted therapy.
PMCID: PMC3886058  PMID: 24421988
oral cancer; oral neoplasms; head and neck cancer; head and neck neoplasms; microRNA; review.
18.  Unique microRNA-profiles in EGFR-mutated lung adenocarcinomas 
The findings of mutations and the development of targeted therapies have improved lung cancer management. Still, the prognosis remains poor, and we need to know more about the genetic and epigenetic alterations in lung cancer. MicroRNAs are involved in crucial biological processes like carcinogenesis by regulating gene expression at the post-transcriptional level. In this project, we have studied the microRNA expression of lung adenocarcinomas and corresponding normal lung tissue and correlated the expression with clinical data and EGFR- and KRAS-mutational status. Agilent microarrays have been used, examining microRNA expression in 154 surgically resected lung adenocarcinomas and 20 corresponding normal lung tissue samples. Findings were confirmed by RT-qPCR in the same cohort and in an independent cohort of 103 lung cancer patients. EGFR and KRAS mutation analyses were also performed. 129 microRNAs were significantly differentially expressed in lung adenocarcinomas compared with normal lung tissue, and 17 microRNAs were differentially expressed between EGFR-mutated and EGFR wildtype tumors. We identified microRNAs associated with time to progression. We have identified several aberrantly expressed microRNAs that discriminate lung adenocarcinomas from normal lung tissue, and hence may be potential biomarkers for early detection. We have found microRNAs that are differentially expressed between EGFR-mutated and EGFR wildtype lung adenocarcinomas, suggesting that microRNAs can be used as molecular biomarkers in classification. We hypothesize that microRNA expression can be used as biomarkers for clinical course.
PMCID: PMC4235315  PMID: 24599520
microRNA; lung cancer; EGFR; survival; KRAS
19.  Prediction of non-small cell lung cancer metastasis-associated microRNAs using bioinformatics 
Distant metastasis is one of the most common causes for failure in treatment of advanced NSCLC, and it is a key factor to determine the patients’ prognosis. This study aims to screen the microRNAs associated with non-small cell lung cancer metastasis, so as to provide theoretical basis for investigating their roles in non-small cell lung cancer metastasis. In this study, the fluorescent transfected human non-small cell lung cancer cell lines H460 developed tumors subcutaneously, which were then in situ transplanted into the left lung of nude mice to obtain the tissue specimens of primary tumor and metastatic tumor. The differentially expressed microRNAs associated with non-small cell lung cancer metastasis were identified using the microRNA microarray and real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) analysis, and bioinformatics analysis of the microRNAs was performed. The microarray analysis results revealed that 17 microRNAs with up-regulated expression and 7 with down-regulated expression between the non-small cell lung cancer metastatic primary loci and the non-metastatic primary loci (Group A), while 20 microRNAs with up-regulated expression (ratio > 1.5 times, P < 0.05) and 16 with down-regulated expression (ratio < 0.65 times, P < 0.05) between the non-small cell lung cancer metastatic loci and the metastatic primary loci (Group B). RT-PCR validation and bioinformatics analysis of some microRNAs identified 2 microRNAs with up-regulated expression, miR-10b and miR-144, and 3 microRNAs with down-regulated expression, miR-9, miR-31 and miR-34b in Group A; and 4 microRNAs with down-regulated expression, miR-25, miR-92a, miR-202 and miR-326 in Group B, which may be mediated by transcription factors activator protein 1 (AP-1), p53, STATs and NF-κB, regulate cell development, proliferation and cycle, DNA and RNA metabolism and signal transduction pathway, and promote tumor growth and metastasis through the effects on target genes like RARβ, RASSF1 and E2F-1. In conclusion, there are differences in microRNA expression between the non-small cell lung cancer metastatic and non-metastatic tissues, which provides experimental basis for exploring the mechanism of non-small cell lung cancer metastasis and provides a potential idea for molecular diagnosis and treatment, as well as prognosis.
PMCID: PMC4300719  PMID: 25628919
Non-small cell lung cancer; metastasis; microRNA; microarray; nude mouse model; target gene
20.  The Role of microRNAs in Colorectal Cancer 
Cancer Journal (Sudbury, Mass.)  2012;18(3):244-252.
Over the last decade, it has become clear that aberrant microRNA expression has a functional role in the initiation and progression of colorectal cancer (CRC). Specific microRNAs can act as either tumor suppressors or oncogenes depending on the cellular environment in which they are expressed. The expression of microRNAs is reproducibly altered in CRC and their expression patterns are associated with diagnosis, prognosis and therapeutic outcome in CRC. Studies have begun to examine the association of microRNA related polymorphisms and their association with CRC incidence and prognosis as well as the possibility of using circulating microRNAs or fecal microRNA expression as non-invasive early detection biomarkers. These data suggest that microRNAs may be potential molecular classifiers, early detection biomarkers and therapeutic targets for CRC. Here, we will review the evidence demonstrating a role of microRNAs in CRC.
PMCID: PMC3397427  PMID: 22647361
21.  MicroRNA-101 targets EZH2, MCL-1 and FOS to suppress proliferation, invasion and stem cell-like phenotype of aggressive endometrial cancer cells 
Oncotarget  2014;5(15):6049-6062.
MicroRNA-101 has been implicated as a tumor suppressor miRNA in human tumors. However, its potential functional impact and the underlying mechanisms in endometrial cancer progression have not been determined. Here, we report that in aggressive endometrial cancer cells, re-expression of microRNA-101 leads to inhibition of cell proliferation and induction of apoptosis and senescence. Ectopic overexpression of microRNA-101 attenuates the epithelial-mesenchymal transition-associated cancer cell migration and invasion, abrogates the sphere-forming capacity and enhances chemosensitivity to paclitaxel. Algorithm and microarray-based strategies identifies potential microRNA-101 targets. Among these, we validated EZH2, MCL-1 and FOS as direct targets of miR-101 and silencing of these genes mimics the tumor suppressive effects observed on promoting microRNA-101 function. Importantly, further results suggest an inverse correlation between low miR-101 and high EZH2, MCL-1 and FOS expression in EC specimens. We conclude that, as a crucial tumor suppressor, microRNA-101 suppresses cell proliferation, invasiveness and self-renewal in aggressive endometrial cancer cells via modulating multiple critical oncogenes. The microRNA-101-EZH2/MCL-1/FOS axis is a potential therapeutic target for endometrial cancer.
PMCID: PMC4171612  PMID: 25153722
microRNA-101; proliferation; EMT; EZH2; MCL-1; FOS
22.  Genes with Relevance for Early to Late Progression of Colon Carcinoma Based on Combined Genomic and Transcriptomic Information from the Same Patients 
Cancer Informatics  2010;9:79-91.
Genetic and epigenetic alterations in colorectal cancer are numerous. However, it is difficult to judge whether such changes are primary or secondary to the appearance and progression of tumors. Therefore, the aim of the present study was to identify altered DNA regions with significant covariation to transcription alterations along colon cancer progression.
Tumor and normal colon tissue were obtained at primary operations from 24 patients selected by chance. DNA, RNA and microRNAs were extracted from the same biopsy material in all individuals and analyzed by oligo-nucleotide array-based comparative genomic hybridization (CGH), mRNA- and microRNA oligo-arrays. Statistical analyses were performed to assess statistical interactions (correlations, co-variations) between DNA copy number changes and significant alterations in gene and microRNA expression using appropriate parametric and non-parametric statistics.
Main DNA alterations were located on chromosome 7, 8, 13 and 20. Tumor DNA copy number gain increased with tumor progression, significantly related to increased gene expression. Copy number loss was not observed in Dukes A tumors. There was no significant relationship between expressed genes and tumor progression across Dukes A–D tumors; and no relationship between tumor stage and the number of microRNAs with significantly altered expression. Interaction analyses identified overall 41 genes, which discriminated early Dukes A plus B tumors from late Dukes C plus D tumor; 28 of these genes remained with correlations between genomic and transcriptomic alterations in Dukes C plus D tumors and 17 in Dukes D. One microRNA (microR-663) showed interactions with DNA alterations in all Dukes A-D tumors.
Our modeling confirms that colon cancer progression is related to genomic instability and altered gene expression. However, early invasive tumor growth seemed rather related to transcriptomic alterations, where changes in microRNA may be an early phenomenon, and less to DNA copy number changes.
PMCID: PMC2867635  PMID: 20467480
CGH array; colorectal cancer; microRNA; transcription
23.  MicroRNA expression profiles in human cancer cells after ionizing radiation 
MicroRNAs are regulators of central cellular processes and are implicated in the pathogenesis and prognosis of human cancers. MicroRNAs also modulate responses to anti-cancer therapy. In the context of radiation oncology microRNAs were found to modulate cell death and proliferation after irradiation. However, changes in microRNA expression profiles in response to irradiation have not been comprehensively analyzed so far. The present study's intend is to present a broad screen of changes in microRNA expression following irradiation of different malignant cell lines.
Materials and methods
1100 microRNAs (Sanger miRBase release version 14.0) were analyzed in six malignant cell lines following irradiation with clinically relevant doses of 2.0 Gy. MicroRNA levels 6 hours after irradiation were compared to microRNA levels in non-irradiated cells using the "Geniom Biochip MPEA homo sapiens".
Hierarchical clustering analysis revealed a pattern, which significantly (p = 0.014) discerned irradiated from non-irradiated cells. The expression levels of a number of microRNAs known to be involved in the regulation of cellular processes like apoptosis, proliferation, invasion, local immune response and radioresistance (e. g. miR-1285, miR-24-1, miR-151-5p, let-7i) displayed 2 - 3-fold changes after irradiation. Moreover, several microRNAs previously not known to be radiation-responsive were discovered.
Ionizing radiation induced significant changes in microRNA expression profiles in 3 glioma and 3 squamous cell carcinoma cell lines. The functional relevance of these changes is not addressed but should by analyzed by future work especially focusing on clinically relevant endpoints like radiation induced cell death, proliferation, migration and metastasis.
PMCID: PMC3079656  PMID: 21453501
24.  Expression profiling identifies microRNA signature in pancreatic cancer 
microRNAs are functional, 22 nt, noncoding RNAs that negatively regulate gene expression. Disturbance of microRNA expression may play a role in the initiation and progression of certain diseases. A microRNA expression signature has been identified that is associated with pancreatic cancer. This has been accomplished with the application of real-time PCR profiling of over 200 microRNA precursors on specimens of human pancreatic adenocarcinoma, paired benign tissue, normal pancreas, chronic pancreatitis and nine pancreatic cancer cell lines. Hierarchical clustering was able to distinguish tumor from normal pancreas, pancreatitis and cell lines. The PAM algorithm correctly classified 28 of 28 tumors, 6 of 6 normal pancreas and 11 of 15 adjacent benign tissues. One hundred micro-RNA precursors were aberrantly expressed in pancreatic cancer or desmoplasia (p < 0.01), including microRNAs previously reported as differentially expressed in other human cancers (miR-155, miR-21, miR-221 and miR-222) as well as those not previously reported in cancer (miR-376a and miR-301). Most of the top aberrantly expressed miRNAs displayed increased expression in the tumor. Expression of the active, mature microRNA was validated using a real-time PCR assay to quantify the mature microRNA and Northern blotting. Reverse transcription in situ PCR showed that three of the top differentially expressed miRNAs (miR-221, -376a and -301) were localized to tumor cells and not to stroma or normal acini or ducts. Aberrant microRNA expression may offer new clues to pancreatic tumorigenesis and may provide diagnostic biomarkers for pancreatic adenocarcinoma.
PMCID: PMC2680248  PMID: 17149698
cancer; noncoding RNA; gene expression; real-time PCR
25.  Functional Analysis of microRNAs in Human Hepatocellular Cancer Stem Cells 
MicroRNAs are endogenous small noncoding RNAs that regulate gene expression and cancer development. A rare population of hepatocellular cancer stem cells (HSCs) holds the extensive proliferative and self-renewal potential necessary to form a liver tumor. We postulated that specific transcriptional factors might regulate the expression of microRNAs and subsequently modulate the expression of gene products involved in phenotypic characteristics of HSCs. We evaluated the expression of microRNA in human HSCs by microarray profiling, and defined the target genes and functional effects of two groups of microRNA regulated by IL-6 and transcriptional factor Twist. A subset of highly chemoresistant and invasive HSCs was screened with aberrant expressions of cytokine IL-6 and Twist. We demonstrated that conserved let-7 and miR-181 family members were up-regulated in HSCs by global microarray-based microRNA profiling followed by validation with real-time PCR. Importantly, inhibition of let-7 increases the chemosensitivity of HSCs to sorafenib and doxorubicin whereas silencing of miR-181 led to a reduction in HSCs motility and invasion. Knocking down IL-6 and Twist in HSCs significantly reduced let-7 and miR-181 expression and subsequently inhibited chemoresistance and cell invasion. We showed that let-7 directly targets SOCS-1 and caspase-3, while miR-181 directly targets RASSF1A, TIMP3 as well as nemo-like kinase (NLK). In conclusion, alterations of IL-6 and Twist regulated microRNA expression in HSCs play a part in tumor spreading and responsiveness to chemotherapy. Our results define a novel regulatory mechanism of let-7/miR-181s suggesting that let-7 and miR-181 may be molecular targets for eradication of hepatocellular malignancies.
PMCID: PMC3116063  PMID: 21352471
microRNAs (miRNAs); Human Hepatocellular Cancer Stem Cells (HSCs); Interleukin-6 (IL-6); Twist; Chemotherapy; Invasion

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