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1.  Identification of candidate miRNA biomarkers from miRNA regulatory network with application to prostate cancer 
Background
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are a class of non-coding regulatory RNAs approximately 22 nucleotides in length that play a role in a wide range of biological processes. Abnormal miRNA function has been implicated in various human cancers including prostate cancer (PCa). Altered miRNA expression may serve as a biomarker for cancer diagnosis and treatment. However, limited data are available on the role of cancer-specific miRNAs. Integrative computational bioinformatics approaches are effective for the detection of potential outlier miRNAs in cancer.
Methods
The human miRNA-mRNA target network was reconstructed by integrating multiple miRNA-mRNA interaction datasets. Paired miRNA and mRNA expression profiling data in PCa versus benign prostate tissue samples were used as another source of information. These datasets were analyzed with an integrated bioinformatics framework to identify potential PCa miRNA signatures. In vitro q-PCR experiments and further systematic analysis were used to validate these prediction results.
Results
Using this bioinformatics framework, we identified 39 miRNAs as potential PCa miRNA signatures. Among these miRNAs, 20 had previously been identified as PCa aberrant miRNAs by low-throughput methods, and 16 were shown to be deregulated in other cancers. In vitro q-PCR experiments verified the accuracy of these predictions. miR-648 was identified as a novel candidate PCa miRNA biomarker. Further functional and pathway enrichment analysis confirmed the association of the identified miRNAs with PCa progression.
Conclusions
Our analysis revealed the scale-free features of the human miRNA-mRNA interaction network and showed the distinctive topological features of existing cancer miRNA biomarkers from previously published studies. A novel cancer miRNA biomarker prediction framework was designed based on these observations and applied to prostate cancer study. This method could be applied for miRNA biomarker prediction in other cancers.
doi:10.1186/1479-5876-12-66
PMCID: PMC4007708  PMID: 24618011
miRNA biomarker; Gene expression; miRNA regulatory network; Prostate cancer
2.  Integrative Identification of Deregulated MiRNA/TF-Mediated Gene Regulatory Loops and Networks in Prostate Cancer 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(6):e100806.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) have attracted a great deal of attention in biology and medicine. It has been hypothesized that miRNAs interact with transcription factors (TFs) in a coordinated fashion to play key roles in regulating signaling and transcriptional pathways and in achieving robust gene regulation. Here, we propose a novel integrative computational method to infer certain types of deregulated miRNA-mediated regulatory circuits at the transcriptional, post-transcriptional and signaling levels. To reliably predict miRNA-target interactions from mRNA/miRNA expression data, our method collectively utilizes sequence-based miRNA-target predictions obtained from several algorithms, known information about mRNA and miRNA targets of TFs available in existing databases, certain molecular structures identified to be statistically over-represented in gene regulatory networks, available molecular subtyping information, and state-of-the-art statistical techniques to appropriately constrain the underlying analysis. In this way, the method exploits almost every aspect of extractable information in the expression data. We apply our procedure on mRNA/miRNA expression data from prostate tumor and normal samples and detect numerous known and novel miRNA-mediated deregulated loops and networks in prostate cancer. We also demonstrate instances of the results in a number of distinct biological settings, which are known to play crucial roles in prostate and other types of cancer. Our findings show that the proposed computational method can be used to effectively achieve notable insights into the poorly understood molecular mechanisms of miRNA-mediated interactions and dissect their functional roles in cancer in an effort to pave the way for miRNA-based therapeutics in clinical settings.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0100806
PMCID: PMC4072696  PMID: 24968068
3.  MirZ: an integrated microRNA expression atlas and target prediction resource 
Nucleic Acids Research  2009;37(Web Server issue):W266-W272.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are short RNAs that act as guides for the degradation and translational repression of protein-coding mRNAs. A large body of work showed that miRNAs are involved in the regulation of a broad range of biological functions, from development to cardiac and immune system function, to metabolism, to cancer. For most of the over 500 miRNAs that are encoded in the human genome the functions still remain to be uncovered. Identifying miRNAs whose expression changes between cell types or between normal and pathological conditions is an important step towards characterizing their function as is the prediction of mRNAs that could be targeted by these miRNAs. To provide the community the possibility of exploring interactively miRNA expression patterns and the candidate targets of miRNAs in an integrated environment, we developed the MirZ web server, which is accessible at www.mirz.unibas.ch. The server provides experimental and computational biologists with statistical analysis and data mining tools operating on up-to-date databases of sequencing-based miRNA expression profiles and of predicted miRNA target sites in species ranging from Caenorhabditis elegans to Homo sapiens.
doi:10.1093/nar/gkp412
PMCID: PMC2703880  PMID: 19468042
4.  Coordinate MicroRNA-Mediated Regulation of Protein Complexes in Prostate Cancer 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e84261.
MicroRNAs are a class of small non-coding regulatory RNA molecules that regulate mRNAs post-transcriptionally. Recent evidence has shown that miRNAs target entire functionally related proteins such as protein complexes and biological pathways. However, characterizing the influence of miRNAs on genes whose encoded proteins are part of protein complexes has not been studied in the context of disease. We propose an entropy-based framework to identify miRNA-mediated dysregulation of functionally related proteins during prostate cancer progression. The proposed framework uses experimentally verified miRNA-target interactions, functionally related proteins and expression data to identify miRNA-influenced protein complexes in prostate cancer, and identify genes that are dysregulated as a result. The framework constructs correlation matrixes between functionally related proteins and miRNAs that have targets in the complex, and assesses the changes in the Shannon entropy of the modules across different stages of prostate cancer. Results reveal that SMAD4 and HDAC containing protein complexes are highly affected and disrupted by miRNAs, particularly miRNA-1 and miRNA-16. Using biological pathways to define functionally related proteins reveals that NF-kB-, RAS-, and Syndecan-mediated pathways are dysregulated due to miRNA-1- and miRNA-16-mediated regulation. These results suggest that miRNA-1 and miRNA-16 are important master regulators of miRNA-mediated regulation in prostate cancer. Moreover, results reveal that miRNAs with high-influence on the disrupted protein complexes are diagnostic and prognostic biomarker candidates for prostate cancer progression. The observation of miRNA-mediated protein complex regulation and miRNA-mediated pathway regulation, with partial experimental verification from previous studies, demonstrates that our framework is a promising approach for the identification of novel miRNAs and protein complexes related to disease progression.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0084261
PMCID: PMC3877262  PMID: 24391925
5.  Global gene expression analysis reveals reduced abundance of putative microRNA targets in human prostate tumours 
BMC Genomics  2009;10:93.
Background
Recently, microRNAs (miRNAs) have taken centre stage in the field of human molecular oncology. Several studies have shown that miRNA profiling analyses offer new possibilities in cancer classification, diagnosis and prognosis. However, the function of miRNAs that are dysregulated in tumours remains largely a mystery. Global analysis of miRNA-target gene expression has helped illuminate the role of miRNAs in developmental gene expression programs, but such an approach has not been reported in cancer transcriptomics.
Results
In this study, we globally analysed the expression patterns of miRNA target genes in prostate cancer by using several public microarray datasets. Intriguingly, we found that, in contrast to global mRNA transcript levels, putative miRNA targets showed a reduced abundance in prostate tumours relative to benign prostate tissue. Additionally, the down-regulation of these miRNA targets positively correlated with the number of types of miRNA target-sites in the 3' untranslated regions of these targets. Further investigation revealed that the globally low expression was mainly driven by the targets of 36 specific miRNAs that were reported to be up-regulated in prostate cancer by a miRNA expression profiling study. We also found that the transcript levels of miRNA targets were lower in androgen-independent prostate cancer than in androgen-dependent prostate cancer. Moreover, when the global analysis was extended to four other cancers, significant differences in transcript levels between miRNA targets and total mRNA backgrounds were found.
Conclusion
Global gene expression analysis, along with further investigation, suggests that miRNA targets have a significantly reduced transcript abundance in prostate cancer, when compared with the combined pool of all mRNAs. The abnormal expression pattern of miRNA targets in human cancer could be a common feature of the human cancer transcriptome. Our study may help to shed new light on the functional roles of miRNAs in cancer transcriptomics.
doi:10.1186/1471-2164-10-93
PMCID: PMC2653538  PMID: 19245699
6.  Integrative network analysis reveals active microRNAs and their functions in gastric cancer 
BMC Systems Biology  2011;5:99.
Background
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are a class of endogenous, small and highly conserved noncoding RNAs that control gene expression either by degradation of target mRNAs or by inhibition of protein translation. They play important roles in cancer progression. A single miRNA can provoke a chain reaction and further affect protein interaction network (PIN). Therefore, we developed a novel integrative approach to identify the functional roles and the regulated PIN of oncomirs.
Results
We integrated the expression profiles of miRNA and mRNA with the human PIN to reveal miRNA-regulated PIN in specific biological conditions. The potential functions of miRNAs were determined by functional enrichment analysis and the activities of miRNA-regulated PINs were evaluated by the co-expression of protein-protein interactions (PPIs). The function of a specific miRNA, miR-148a, was further examined by clinical data analysis and cell-based experiments. We uncovered several miRNA-regulated networks which were enriched with functions related to cancer progression. One miRNA, miR-148a, was identified and its function is to decrease tumor proliferation and metastasis through its regulated PIN. Furthermore, we found that miR-148a could reduce the invasiveness, migratory and adhesive activities of gastric tumor cells. Most importantly, elevated miR-148a level in gastric cancer tissues was strongly correlated with distant metastasis, organ and peritoneal invasion and reduced survival rate.
Conclusions
This study provides a novel method to identify active oncomirs and their potential functions in gastric cancer progression. The present data suggest that miR-148a could be a potential prognostic biomarker of gastric cancer and function as a tumor suppressor through repressing the activity of its regulated PIN.
doi:10.1186/1752-0509-5-99
PMCID: PMC3142228  PMID: 21703006
7.  Integrative Omics Analysis Reveals the Importance and Scope of Translational Repression in microRNA-mediated Regulation* 
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are key post-transcriptional regulators that inhibit gene expression by promoting mRNA decay and/or suppressing translation. However, the relative contributions of these two mechanisms to gene repression remain controversial. Early studies favor a translational repression-centric scenario, whereas recent large-scale studies suggest a dominant role of mRNA decay in miRNA regulation. Here we generated proteomics data for nine colorectal cancer cell lines and integrated them with matched miRNA and mRNA expression data to infer and characterize miRNA-mediated regulation. Consistent with previous reports, we found that 8mer site, site positioning within 3′UTR, local AU-rich context, and additional 3′ pairing could all help boost miRNA-mediated mRNA decay. However, these sequence features were generally not correlated with increased translational repression, except for local AU-rich context. Thus the contribution of translational repression might be underestimated in recent studies in which the analyses were based primarily on the response of genes with canonical 7–8 mer sites in 3′UTRs. Indeed, we found that translational repression was involved in more than half, and played a major role in one-third of all predicted miRNA-target interactions. It was even the predominant contributor to miR-138 mediated regulation, which was further supported by the observation that differential expression of miR-138 in two genetically matched cell lines corresponded to altered protein but not mRNA abundance of most target genes. In addition, our study also provided interesting insights into colon cancer biology such as the possible contributions of miR-138 and miR-141/miR-200c in inducing specific phenotypes of SW480 and RKO cell lines, respectively.
doi:10.1074/mcp.M112.025783
PMCID: PMC3708174  PMID: 23550052
8.  Discovery and visualization of miRNA–mRNA functional modules within integrated data using bicluster analysis 
Nucleic Acids Research  2013;42(3):e17.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small non-coding RNA molecules that regulate gene expression at a post-transcriptional level. An miRNA may target many messenger RNA (mRNA) transcripts, and each transcript may be targeted by multiple miRNAs. Our understanding of miRNA regulation is evolving to consider modules of miRNAs that regulate groups of functionally related mRNAs. Here we expand the model of miRNA functional modules and use it to guide the integration of miRNA and mRNA expression and target prediction data. We present evidence of cooperativity between miRNA classes within this integrated miRNA–mRNA association matrix. We then apply bicluster analysis to uncover miRNA functional modules within this integrated data set and develop a novel application to visualize and query these results. We show that this wholly unsupervised approach can discover a network of miRNA–mRNA modules that are enriched for both biological processes and miRNA classes. We apply this method to investigate the interplay of miRNAs and mRNAs in integrated data sets derived from neuroblastoma and human immune cells. This study is the first to apply the technique of biclustering to model functional modules within an integrated miRNA–mRNA association matrix. Results provide evidence of an extensive modular miRNA functional network and enable characterization of miRNA function and dysregulation in disease.
doi:10.1093/nar/gkt1318
PMCID: PMC3919560  PMID: 24357407
9.  MicroRNA: Potential Targets for the Development of Novel Drugs? 
Drugs in R&d  2012;10(1):1-8.
MicroRNA (miRNA) is an endogenous non-protein coding small RNA molecule that negatively regulates gene expression by the degradation of messenger RNA (mRNA) or the suppression of mRNA translation. miRNA plays important roles in physiologic processes such as cellular development, differentiation, proliferation, apoptosis, and stem cell self-renewal. Studies show that deregulation of miRNA expression is closely associated with tumorigenicity, invasion, and metastasis. The functionality of aberrant miRNAs in cancer could act either as oncogenes or tumor suppressors during tumor initiation and progression. Similar to protein-coding gene regulation, dysregulation of miRNAs may be related to changes in miRNA gene copy numbers, epigenetic modulation, polymorphisms, or biogenesis modifications. Elucidation of the miRNA expression profiles (miRNomes) of many types of cancers is starting to decode the regulatory network of miRNA-mRNA interactions from a systems biology perspective. Experimental evidence demonstrates that modulation of specific miRNA alterations in cancer cells using miRNA replacement or anti-miRNA technologies can restore miRNA activities and repair gene regulatory networks affecting apoptotic signaling pathways or drug sensitivity, and improve the outcome of treatment. Numerous animal studies for miRNA-based therapy offer the hope of targeting miRNAs as an alternative cancer treatment. Developing the small molecules to interfere with miRNAs could be of great pharmaceutical interest in the future.
doi:10.2165/11537800-000000000-00000
PMCID: PMC3585691  PMID: 20509710
10.  The RNA-binding Protein KSRP Promotes the Biogenesis of a Subset of miRNAs 
Nature  2009;459(7249):1010-1014.
Consistent with the role of microRNAs (miRNAs) in down-regulating gene expression by reducing translation and/or stability of target mRNAs1, the levels of specific miRNAs are important for correct embryonic development and have been linked to several forms of cancer2-4. However, the regulatory mechanisms by which primary miRNAs (pri-miRNAs) are processed first to precursor miRNAs (pre-miRNAs) and then to mature miRNAs by the multiprotein Drosha and Dicer complexes5-8, respectively, remain largely unknown. The KH-type splicing regulatory protein (KSRP) interacts with single strand AU-rich elements (ARE)-containing mRNAs and is a key mediator of mRNA decay9,10. Here, we show that KSRP also serves as a component of both Drosha and Dicer complexes and regulates the biogenesis of a subset of miRNAs. KSRP binds with high affinity to the terminal loop (TL) of the target miRNA precursors and promotes their maturation. This mechanism is required for specific changes in target mRNA expression that affects specific biological programs, including proliferation, apoptosis and differentiation. These findings reveal an unexpected mechanism that links KSRP to the machinery regulating maturation of a cohort of miRNAs, that, in addition to its role in promoting mRNA decay, independently serves to integrate specific regulatory programs of protein expression.
doi:10.1038/nature08025
PMCID: PMC2768332  PMID: 19458619
11.  The roles of binding site arrangement and combinatorial targeting in microRNA repression of gene expression 
Genome Biology  2007;8(8):R166.
A genome wide analysis of factors affecting repression of mRNAs by microRNAs reveals roles for 3'UTR length, the number of target sites on the mRNA and the distance between pairs of binding sites.
Background
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small noncoding RNAs that bind mRNA target transcripts and repress gene expression. They have been implicated in multiple diseases, such as cancer, but the mechanisms of this involvement are not well understood. Given the complexity and degree of interactions between miRNAs and target genes, understanding how miRNAs achieve their specificity is important to understanding miRNA function and identifying their role in disease.
Results
Here we report factors that influence miRNA regulation by considering the effects of both single and multiple miRNAs targeting human genes. In the case of single miRNA targeting, we developed a metric that integrates miRNA and mRNA expression data to calculate how changes in miRNA expression affect target mRNA expression. Using the metric, our global analysis shows that the repression of a given miRNA on a target mRNA is modulated by 3' untranslated region length, the number of target sites, and the distance between a pair of binding sites. Additionally, we show that some miRNAs preferentially repress transcripts with longer CTG repeats, suggesting a possible role for miRNAs in repeat expansion disorders such as myotonic dystrophy. We also examine the large class of genes targeted by multiple miRNAs and show that specific types of genes are progressively more enriched as the number of targeting miRNAs increases. Expression microarray data further show that these highly targeted genes are downregulated relative to genes targeted by few miRNAs, which suggests that highly targeted genes are tightly regulated and that their dysregulation may lead to disease. In support of this idea, cancer genes are strongly enriched among highly targeted genes.
Conclusion
Our data show that the rules governing miRNA targeting are complex, but that understanding the mechanisms that drive such control can uncover miRNAs' role in disease. Our study suggests that the number and arrangement of miRNA recognition sites can influence the degree and specificity of miRNA-mediated gene repression.
doi:10.1186/gb-2007-8-8-r166
PMCID: PMC2374997  PMID: 17697356
12.  Constructing higher-order miRNA-mRNA interaction networks in prostate cancer via hypergraph-based learning 
BMC Systems Biology  2013;7:47.
Background
Dysregulation of genetic factors such as microRNAs (miRNAs) and mRNAs has been widely shown to be associated with cancer progression and development. In particular, miRNAs and mRNAs cooperate to affect biological processes, including tumorigenesis. The complexity of miRNA-mRNA interactions presents a major barrier to identifying their co-regulatory roles and functional effects. Thus, by computationally modeling these complex relationships, it may be possible to infer the gene interaction networks underlying complicated biological processes.
Results
We propose a data-driven, hypergraph structural method for constructing higher-order miRNA-mRNA interaction networks from cancer genomic profiles. The proposed model explicitly characterizes higher-order relationships among genetic factors, from which cooperative gene activities in biological processes may be identified. The proposed model is learned by iteration of structure and parameter learning. The structure learning efficiently constructs a hypergraph structure by generating putative hyperedges representing complex miRNA-mRNA modules. It adopts an evolutionary method based on information-theoretic criteria. In the parameter learning phase, the constructed hypergraph is refined by updating the hyperedge weights using the gradient descent method. From the model, we produce biologically relevant higher-order interaction networks showing the properties of primary and metastatic prostate cancer, as candidates of potential miRNA-mRNA regulatory circuits.
Conclusions
Our approach focuses on potential cancer-specific interactions reflecting higher-order relationships between miRNAs and mRNAs from expression profiles. The constructed miRNA-mRNA interaction networks show oncogenic or tumor suppression characteristics, which are known to be directly associated with prostate cancer progression. Therefore, the hypergraph-based model can assist hypothesis formulation for the molecular pathogenesis of cancer.
doi:10.1186/1752-0509-7-47
PMCID: PMC3733828  PMID: 23782521
miRNA-mRNA interaction networks; Hypergraph-based model; Higher-order gene modules; Evolutionary learning; Cancer genomics data analysis
13.  Functional Profiling of Precursor MicroRNAs Identifies MicroRNAs Essential for Glioma Proliferation 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e60930.
Cancer initiation and progression involve microRNAs that can function like tumor suppressors and oncogenes. The functional significance of most miRNAs is currently unknown. To determine systematically which microRNAs are essential for glioma growth, we screened a precursor microRNA library in three human glioblastoma and one astroglial cell line model systems. The most prominent and consistent cell proliferation–reducing hits were validated in secondary screening with an additional apoptosis endpoint. The functional screening data were integrated in the miRNA expression data to find underexpressed true functional tumor suppressor miRNAs. In addition, we used miRNA-target gene predictions and combined siRNA functional screening data to find the most probable miRNA-target gene pairs with a similar functional effect on proliferation. Nine novel functional miRNAs (hsa-miR-129, -136, -145, -155, -181b, -342-5p, -342-3p, -376a/b) in GBM cell lines were validated for their importance in glioma cell growth, and similar effects for six target genes (ROCK1, RHOA, MET, CSF1R, EIF2AK1, FGF7) of these miRNAs were shown functionally. The clinical significance of the functional hits was validated in miRNA expression data from the TCGA glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) tumor cohort. Five tumor suppressor miRNAs (hsa-miR-136, -145, -342, -129, -376a) showed significant underexpression in clinical GBM tumor samples from the TCGA GBM cohort further supporting the role of these miRNAs in vivo. Most importantly, higher hsa-miR-145 expression in GBM tumors yielded significantly better survival (p<0.005) in a subset of patients thus validating it as a genuine tumor suppressor miRNA. This systematic functional profiling provides important new knowledge about functionally relevant miRNAs in GBM biology and may offer new targets for treating glioma.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0060930
PMCID: PMC3618426  PMID: 23577178
14.  Integrative Analysis of miRNA-mRNA and miRNA-miRNA Interactions 
BioMed Research International  2014;2014:907420.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small, noncoding regulatory molecules. They are involved in many essential biological processes and act by suppressing gene expression. The present work reports an integrative analysis of miRNA-mRNA and miRNA-miRNA interactions and their regulatory patterns using high-throughput miRNA and mRNA datasets. Aberrantly expressed miRNA and mRNA profiles were obtained based on fold change analysis, and qRT-PCR was used for further validation of deregulated miRNAs. miRNAs and target mRNAs were found to show various expression patterns. miRNA-miRNA interactions and clustered/homologous miRNAs were also found to contribute to the flexible and selective regulatory network. Interacting miRNAs (e.g., miRNA-103a and miR-103b) showed more pronounced differences in expression, which suggests the potential “restricted interaction” in the miRNA world. miRNAs from the same gene clusters (e.g., miR-23b gene cluster) or gene families (e.g., miR-10 gene family) always showed the same types of deregulation patterns, although they sometimes differed in expression levels. These clustered and homologous miRNAs may have close functional relationships, which may indicate collaborative interactions between miRNAs. The integrative analysis of miRNA-mRNA based on biological characteristics of miRNA will further enrich miRNA study.
doi:10.1155/2014/907420
PMCID: PMC3945032  PMID: 24689063
15.  MicroRNA in cancer: New hopes for antineoplastic chemotherapy 
Upsala Journal of Medical Sciences  2012;117(2):202-216.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are a class of endogenous non-coding small RNAs that are evolutionarily conserved and widely distributed among species. Their major function is to negatively regulate mRNA target genes, and miRNA expression has been found to be deregulated in all human cancers, where miRNAs play critical roles in tumorigenesis, functioning either as tumor suppressors or as oncogenes. This review provides a current overview of the connection between miRNAs and cancer by covering the recent advances in miRNA involvement in human cancer including initiation, growth, invasion, and metastasis. We will also highlight the literature where application of miRNAs has created the foundation for the development of potential future miRNA therapy.
doi:10.3109/03009734.2012.660551
PMCID: PMC3339552  PMID: 22348396
Cancer; microRNAs; non-coding RNAs
16.  Co-modulated behavior and effects of differentially expressed miRNA in colorectal cancer 
BMC Genomics  2013;14(Suppl 5):S12.
Background
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are short noncoding RNAs (approximately 22 nucleotides in length) that play important roles in colorectal cancer (CRC) progression through silencing gene expression. Numerous dysregulated miRNAs simultaneously participate in the process of colon cancer development. However, the detailed mechanisms and biological functions of co-expressed miRNA in colorectal carcinogenesis have yet to be fully elucidated.
Results
The objective of this study was to identify the dysfunctional miRNAs and their target mRNAs using a wet-lab experimental and dry-lab bioinformatics approach. The differentially expressed miRNA candidates were identified from 2 miRNA profiles, and were confirmed in CRC clinical samples using reported target genes of dysfunctional miRNAs to perform functional pathway enrichment analysis. Potential target gene candidates were predicted by an in silico search, and their expression levels between normal and colorectal tumor tissues were further analyzed using real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR).
We identified 5 miRNAs (miR-18a, miR-31, miR-96, miR-182, and miR-224) and 10 miRNAs (miR-1, miR-9, miR-10b, miR-133a, miR-143, miR-137, miR-147b, miR-196a/b, and miR-342) that were significantly upregulated and downregulated in colon tumors, respectively. Bioinformatics analysis showed that the known targets of these dysregulated miRNAs simultaneously participated in epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT), cell growth, cell adhesion, and cell cycles. In addition, we identified that several pivotal target gene candidates may be comodulated by dysfunctional miRNAs during colon cancer progression. Finally, 7 candidates were proven to be differentially expressed, and had an anti-correlationship with dysregulated miRNA in 48 CRC samples.
Conclusion
Fifteen dysfunctional miRNAs were engaged in metastasis-associated pathways through comodulating 7 target genes, which were identified by using a multi-step approach. The roles of these candidate genes are worth further exploration in the progression of colon cancer, and could potentially be targets in future therapy.
doi:10.1186/1471-2164-14-S5-S12
PMCID: PMC3852113  PMID: 24564330
microRNA; colorectal cancer; pathway enrichment analysis
17.  Identification of distinct miRNA target regulation between breast cancer molecular subtypes using AGO2-PAR-CLIP and patient datasets 
Genome Biology  2014;15(1):R9.
Background
Various microRNAs (miRNAs) are up- or downregulated in tumors. However, the repression of cognate miRNA targets responsible for the phenotypic effects of this dysregulation in patients remains largely unexplored. To define miRNA targets and associated pathways, together with their relationship to outcome in breast cancer, we integrated patient-paired miRNA-mRNA expression data with a set of validated miRNA targets and pathway inference.
Results
To generate a biochemically-validated set of miRNA-binding sites, we performed argonaute-2 photoactivatable-ribonucleoside-enhanced crosslinking and immunoprecipitation (AGO2-PAR-CLIP) in MCF7 cells. We then defined putative miRNA-target interactions using a computational model, which ranked and selected additional TargetScan-predicted interactions based on features of our AGO2-PAR-CLIP binding-site data. We subselected modeled interactions according to the abundance of their constituent miRNA and mRNA transcripts in tumors, and we took advantage of the variability of miRNA expression within molecular subtypes to detect miRNA repression. Interestingly, our data suggest that miRNA families control subtype-specific pathways; for example, miR-17, miR-19a, miR-25, and miR-200b show high miRNA regulatory activity in the triple-negative, basal-like subtype, whereas miR-22 and miR-24 do so in the HER2 subtype. An independent dataset validated our findings for miR-17 and miR-25, and showed a correlation between the expression levels of miR-182 targets and overall patient survival. Pathway analysis associated miR-17, miR-19a, and miR-200b with leukocyte transendothelial migration.
Conclusions
We combined PAR-CLIP data with patient expression data to predict regulatory miRNAs, revealing potential therapeutic targets and prognostic markers in breast cancer.
doi:10.1186/gb-2014-15-1-r9
PMCID: PMC4053773  PMID: 24398324
18.  Integrated miRNA and mRNA expression profiling of the inflammatory breast cancer subtype 
British Journal of Cancer  2010;103(4):532-541.
Background:
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are key regulators of gene expression. In this study, we explored whether altered miRNA expression has a prominent role in defining the inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) phenotype.
Methods:
We used quantitative PCR technology to evaluate the expression of 384 miRNAs in 20 IBC and 50 non-IBC samples. To gain understanding on the biological functions deregulated by aberrant miRNA expression, we looked for direct miRNA targets by performing pair-wise correlation coefficient analysis on expression levels of 10 962 messenger RNAs (mRNAs) and by comparing these results with predicted miRNA targets from TargetScan5.1.
Results:
We identified 13 miRNAs for which expression levels were able to correctly predict the nature of the sample analysed (IBC vs non-IBC). For these miRNAs, we detected a total of 17 295 correlated miRNA–mRNA pairs, of which 7012 and 10 283 pairs showed negative and positive correlations, respectively. For four miRNAs (miR-29a, miR-30b, miR-342-3p and miR-520a-5p), correlated genes were concordant with predicted targets. A gene set enrichment analysis on these genes demonstrated significant enrichment in biological processes related to cell proliferation and signal transduction.
Conclusions:
This study represents, to the best of our knowledge, the first integrated analysis of miRNA and mRNA expression in IBC. We identified a set of 13 miRNAs of which expression differed between IBC and non-IBC, making these miRNAs candidate markers for the IBC subtype.
doi:10.1038/sj.bjc.6605787
PMCID: PMC2939785  PMID: 20664596
microRNA; inflammatory breast cancer; dicer; ago2; mRNA
19.  Inferring MicroRNA Activities by Combining Gene Expression with MicroRNA Target Prediction 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(4):e1989.
Background
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) play crucial roles in a variety of biological processes via regulating expression of their target genes at the mRNA level. A number of computational approaches regarding miRNAs have been proposed, but most of them focus on miRNA gene finding or target predictions. Little computational work has been done to investigate the effective regulation of miRNAs.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We propose a method to infer the effective regulatory activities of miRNAs by integrating microarray expression data with miRNA target predictions. The method is based on the idea that regulatory activity changes of miRNAs could be reflected by the expression changes of their target transcripts measured by microarray. To validate this method, we apply it to the microarray data sets that measure gene expression changes in cell lines after transfection or inhibition of several specific miRNAs. The results indicate that our method can detect activity enhancement of the transfected miRNAs as well as activity reduction of the inhibited miRNAs with high sensitivity and specificity. Furthermore, we show that our inference is robust with respect to false positives of target prediction.
Conclusions/Significance
A huge amount of gene expression data sets are available in the literature, but miRNA regulation underlying these data sets is largely unknown. The method is easy to be implemented and can be used to investigate the miRNA effective regulation underlying the expression change profiles obtained from microarray experiments.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0001989
PMCID: PMC2291556  PMID: 18431476
20.  Module Network Inference from a Cancer Gene Expression Data Set Identifies MicroRNA Regulated Modules 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(4):e10162.
Background
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small RNAs that recognize and regulate mRNA target genes. Multiple lines of evidence indicate that they are key regulators of numerous critical functions in development and disease, including cancer. However, defining the place and function of miRNAs in complex regulatory networks is not straightforward. Systems approaches, like the inference of a module network from expression data, can help to achieve this goal.
Methodology/Principal Findings
During the last decade, much progress has been made in the development of robust and powerful module network inference algorithms. In this study, we analyze and assess experimentally a module network inferred from both miRNA and mRNA expression data, using our recently developed module network inference algorithm based on probabilistic optimization techniques. We show that several miRNAs are predicted as statistically significant regulators for various modules of tightly co-expressed genes. A detailed analysis of three of those modules demonstrates that the specific assignment of miRNAs is functionally coherent and supported by literature. We further designed a set of experiments to test the assignment of miR-200a as the top regulator of a small module of nine genes. The results strongly suggest that miR-200a is regulating the module genes via the transcription factor ZEB1. Interestingly, this module is most likely involved in epithelial homeostasis and its dysregulation might contribute to the malignant process in cancer cells.
Conclusions/Significance
Our results show that a robust module network analysis of expression data can provide novel insights of miRNA function in important cellular processes. Such a computational approach, starting from expression data alone, can be helpful in the process of identifying the function of miRNAs by suggesting modules of co-expressed genes in which they play a regulatory role. As shown in this study, those modules can then be tested experimentally to further investigate and refine the function of the miRNA in the regulatory network.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0010162
PMCID: PMC2854686  PMID: 20418949
21.  microRNA Dysregulation in Prostate Cancer: Network Analysis Reveals Preferential Regulation of Highly Connected Nodes 
Chemistry & biodiversity  2012;9(5):857-867.
microRNAs (miRNAs) are small RNAs shown to contribute to a number of cellular processes including cell growth, differentiation, and apoptosis. MiRNAs regulate gene expression of their targets post-transcriptionally by binding to messenger RNA (mRNA), causing translational inhibition or mRNA degradation. Dysregulation of miRNA expression can promote cancer formation and progression. Research has largely focused on the function and expression of single miRNAs. However, complex physiological processes require the interaction, regulation and coordination of many molecules including miRNAs and proteins. Highly connected molecules often serve important roles in the cell. A protein–protein interaction network of established miRNA targets confirmed these proteins to be highly connected and essential to the cell, affecting tumorigenesis, cell growth/proliferation, cellular death, cell assembly, and maintenance pathways. This analysis showed that miRNAs contribute to the overall health of the prostate, and their aberrant expression destabilized homeostatic balance. This integrative network approach can reveal important miRNAs and proteins in prostate cancer that will be useful to identify specific disease biomarkers, which may be used as targets for therapeutics or drugs in themselves.
doi:10.1002/cbdv.201100386
PMCID: PMC3386794  PMID: 22589088
22.  Searching for MIND: MicroRNAs in Neurodegenerative Diseases 
In few years our understanding of microRNA (miRNA) biogenesis, molecular mechanisms by which miRNAs regulate gene expression, and the functional roles of miRNAs has been expanded. Interestingly, numerous miRNAs are expressed in a spatially and temporally controlled manner in the nervous system, suggesting that their posttrascriptional regulation may be particularly relevant in neural development and function. MiRNA studies in neurobiology showed their involvement in synaptic plasticity and brain diseases. In this review ,correlations between miRNA-mediated gene silencing and Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and other neurodegenerative diseases will be discussed. Molecular and cellular neurobiological studies of the miRNAs in neurodegeneration represent the exploration of a new Frontier of miRNAs biology and the potential development of new diagnostic tests and genetic therapies for neurodegenerative diseases.
doi:10.1155/2009/871313
PMCID: PMC2730580  PMID: 19707536
23.  MiRNA-Directed Regulation of VEGF and Other Angiogenic Factors under Hypoxia 
PLoS ONE  2006;1(1):e116.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are a class of 20–24 nt non-coding RNAs that regulate gene expression primarily through post-transcriptional repression or mRNA degradation in a sequence-specific manner. The roles of miRNAs are just beginning to be understood, but the study of miRNA function has been limited by poor understanding of the general principles of gene regulation by miRNAs. Here we used CNE cells from a human nasopharyngeal carcinoma cell line as a cellular system to investigate miRNA-directed regulation of VEGF and other angiogenic factors under hypoxia, and to explore the principles of gene regulation by miRNAs. Through computational analysis, 96 miRNAs were predicted as putative regulators of VEGF. But when we analyzed the miRNA expression profile of CNE and four other VEGF-expressing cell lines, we found that only some of these miRNAs could be involved in VEGF regulation, and that VEGF may be regulated by different miRNAs that were differentially chosen from 96 putative regulatory miRNAs of VEGF in different cells. Some of these miRNAs also co-regulate other angiogenic factors (differential regulation and co-regulation principle). We also found that VEGF was regulated by multiple miRNAs using different combinations, including both coordinate and competitive interactions. The coordinate principle states that miRNAs with independent binding sites in a gene can produce coordinate action to increase the repressive effect of miRNAs on this gene. By contrast, the competitive principle states when multiple miRNAs compete with each other for a common binding site, or when a functional miRNA competes with a false positive miRNA for the same binding site, the repressive effects of miRNAs may be decreased. Through the competitive principle, false positive miRNAs, which cannot directly repress gene expression, can sometimes play a role in miRNA-mediated gene regulation. The competitive principle, differential regulation, multi-miRNA binding sites, and false positive miRNAs might be useful strategies in the avoidance of unwanted cross-action among genes targeted by miRNAs with multiple targets.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0000116
PMCID: PMC1762435  PMID: 17205120
24.  Identification of Novel AR-Targeted MicroRNAs Mediating Androgen Signalling through Critical Pathways to Regulate Cell Viability in Prostate Cancer 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e56592.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) have been recognized as significantly involved in prostate cancer (PCa). Since androgen receptor (AR) plays a central role in PCa carcinogenesis and progression, it is imperative to systematically elucidate the causal association between AR and miRNAs, focusing on the molecular mechanisms by which miRNAs mediate AR signalling. In this study, we performed a series of time-course microarrays to observe the dynamic genome-wide expressions of mRNAs and miRNAs in parallel in hormone-sensitive prostate cancer LNCaP cells stimulated by androgen. Accordingly, we introduced Response Score to identify AR target miRNAs, as well as Modulation Score to identify miRNA target mRNAs. Based on theoretical identification and experimental validation, novel mechanisms addressing cell viability in PCa were unravelled for 3 miRNAs newly recognized as AR targets. (1) miR-19a is directly up-regulated by AR, and represses SUZ12, RAB13, SC4MOL, PSAP and ABCA1, respectively. (2) miR-27a is directly up-regulated by AR, and represses ABCA1 and PDS5B. (3) miR-133b is directly up-regulated by AR, and represses CDC2L5, PTPRK, RB1CC1, and CPNE3, respectively. Moreover, we found miR-133b is essential to PCa cell survival. Our study gives certain clues on miRNAs mediated AR signalling to cell viability by influencing critical pathways, especially by breaking through androgen’s growth restriction effect on normal prostate tissue.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0056592
PMCID: PMC3579835  PMID: 23451058
25.  MicroRNA Implications across Neurodevelopment and Neuropathology 
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) have rapidly emerged as biologically important mediators of posttranscriptional and epigenetic regulation in both plants and animals. miRNAs function through a variety of mechanisms including mRNA degradation and translational repression; additionally, miRNAs may guide gene expression by serving as transcription factors. miRNAs are highly expressed in human brain. Tissue and cell type-specific enrichments of certain miRNAs within the nervous system argue for a biological significance during neurodevelopmental stages. On the other hand, a large number of studies have reported links between alterations of miRNA homeostasis and pathologic conditions such as cancer, heart diseases, and neurodegeneration. Thus, profiles of distinct or aberrant miRNA signatures have most recently surged as one of the most fascinating interests in current biology. Here, the most recent insights into the involvement of miRNAs in the biology of the nervous system and the occurrence of neuropathological disorders are reviewed and discussed.
doi:10.1155/2009/654346
PMCID: PMC2762243  PMID: 19841678

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