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1.  Wiring miRNAs to pathways: a topological approach to integrate miRNA and mRNA expression profiles 
Nucleic Acids Research  2014;42(11):e96.
The production rate of gene expression data is nothing less than astounding. However, with the benefit of hindsight we can assert that, since we completely ignored the non-coding part of the transcriptome, we spent the last decade to study cell mechanisms having few data in our hands. In this scenario, microRNAs, which are key post-trascriptional regulators, deserve special attention. Given the state of knowledge about their biogenesis, mechanisms of action and the numerous experimentally validated target genes, miRNAs are also gradually appearing in the formal pathway representations such as KEGG and Reactome maps. However, the number of miRNAs annotated in pathway maps are very few and pathway analyses exploiting this new regulatory layer are still lacking. To fill these gaps, we present ‘micrographite’ a new pipeline to perform topological pathway analysis integrating gene and miRNA expression profiles. Here, micrographite is used to study and dissect the epithelial ovarian cancer gene and miRNA transcriptome defining and validating a new regulatory circuit related to ovarian cancer histotype specificity.
PMCID: PMC4066781  PMID: 24803669
2.  A Systems Biology Approach to Characterize the Regulatory Networks Leading to Trabectedin Resistance in an In Vitro Model of Myxoid Liposarcoma 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(4):e35423.
Trabectedin, a new antitumor compound originally derived from a marine tunicate, is clinically effective in soft tissue sarcoma. The drug has shown a high selectivity for myxoid liposarcoma, characterized by the translocation t(12;16)(q13; p11) leading to the expression of FUS-CHOP fusion gene. Trabectedin appears to act interfering with mechanisms of transcription regulation. In particular, the transactivating activity of FUS-CHOP was found to be impaired by trabectedin treatment. Even after prolonged response resistance occurs and thus it is important to elucidate the mechanisms of resistance to trabectedin. To this end we developed and characterized a myxoid liposarcoma cell line resistant to trabectedin (402-91/ET), obtained by exposing the parental 402-91 cell line to stepwise increases in drug concentration. The aim of this study was to compare mRNAs, miRNAs and proteins profiles of 402-91 and 402-91/ET cells through a systems biology approach. We identified 3,083 genes, 47 miRNAs and 336 proteins differentially expressed between 402-91 and 402-91/ET cell lines. Interestingly three miRNAs among those differentially expressed, miR-130a, miR-21 and miR-7, harbored CHOP binding sites in their promoter region. We used computational approaches to integrate the three regulatory layers and to generate a molecular map describing the altered circuits in sensitive and resistant cell lines. By combining transcriptomic and proteomic data, we reconstructed two different networks, i.e. apoptosis and cell cycle regulation, that could play a key role in modulating trabectedin resistance. This approach highlights the central role of genes such as CCDN1, RB1, E2F4, TNF, CDKN1C and ABL1 in both pre- and post-transcriptional regulatory network. The validation of these results in in vivo models might be clinically relevant to stratify myxoid liposarcoma patients with different sensitivity to trabectedin treatment.
PMCID: PMC3327679  PMID: 22523595
3.  Application of RNA-Seq transcriptome analysis: CD151 is an Invasion/Migration target in all stages of epithelial ovarian cancer 
RNA-Seq allows a theoretically unbiased analysis of both genome-wide transcription levels and mutation status of a tumor. Using this technique we sought to identify novel candidate therapeutic targets expressed in epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC).
Specifically, we sought candidate invasion/migration targets based on expression levels across all tumors, novelty of expression in EOC, and known function. RNA-Seq analysis revealed the high expression of CD151, a transmembrane protein, across all stages of EOC. Expression was confirmed at both the mRNA and protein levels using RT-PCR and immunohistochemical staining, respectively.
In both EOC tumors and normal ovarian surface epithelial cells we demonstrated CD151 to be localized to the membrane and cell-cell junctions in patient-derived and established EOC cell lines. We next evaluated its role in EOC dissemination using two ovarian cancer-derived cell lines with differential levels of CD151 expression. Targeted antibody-mediated and siRNA inhibition or loss of CD151 in SKOV3 and OVCAR5 cell lines effectively inhibited their migration and invasion.
Taken together, these findings provide the first proof-of-principle demonstration for a next generation sequencing approach to identifying candidate therapeutic targets and reveal CD151 to play a role in EOC dissemination.
PMCID: PMC3288733  PMID: 22272937
CD151; Epithelial Ovarian Cancer; Invasion; Migration; Metastasis; RNA-Seq
4.  IGFBP-4 tumor and serum levels are increased across all stages of epithelial ovarian cancer 
We sought to identify candidate serum biomarkers for the detection and surveillance of EOC. Based on RNA-Seq transcriptome analysis of patient-derived tumors, highly expressed secreted proteins were identified using a bioinformatic approach.
RNA-Seq was used to quantify papillary serous ovarian cancer transcriptomes. Paired end sequencing of 22 flash frozen tumors was performed. Sequence alignments were processed with the program ELAND, expression levels with ERANGE and then bioinformatically screened for secreted protein signatures. Serum samples from women with benign and malignant pelvic masses and serial samples from women during chemotherapy regimens were measured for IGFBP-4 by ELISA. Student's t Test, ANOVA, and ROC curves were used for statistical analysis.
Insulin-like growth factor binding protein (IGFBP-4) was consistently present in the top 7.5% of all expressed genes in all tumor samples. We then screened serum samples to determine if increased tumor expression correlated with serum expression. In an initial discovery set of 21 samples, IGFBP-4 levels were found to be elevated in patients, including those with early stage disease and normal CA125 levels. In a larger and independent validation set (82 controls, 78 cases), IGFBP-4 levels were significantly increased (p < 5 × 10-5). IGFBP-4 levels were ~3× greater in women with malignant pelvic masses compared to women with benign masses. ROC sensitivity was 73% at 93% specificity (AUC 0.816). In women receiving chemotherapy, average IGFBP-4 levels were below the ROC-determined threshold and lower in NED patients compared to AWD patients.
This study, the first to our knowledge to use RNA-Seq for biomarker discovery, identified IGFBP-4 as overexpressed in ovarian cancer patients. Beyond this, these studies identified two additional intriguing findings. First, IGFBP-4 can be elevated in early stage disease without elevated CA125. Second, IGFBP-4 levels are significantly elevated with malignant versus benign disease. These findings provide the rationale for future validation studies.
PMCID: PMC3271973  PMID: 22264331
IGFBP-4; epithelial ovarian cancer; serum biomarker; RNA-Seq; transcriptome
5.  microRNA-181a has a critical role in ovarian cancer progression through the regulation of the epithelial–mesenchymal transition 
Nature Communications  2014;5:2977.
Ovarian cancer is a leading cause of cancer deaths among women. Effective targets to treat advanced epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC) and biomarkers to predict treatment response are still lacking because of the complexity of pathways involved in ovarian cancer progression. Here we show that miR-181a promotes TGF-β-mediated epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition via repression of its functional target, Smad7. miR-181a and phosphorylated Smad2 are enriched in recurrent compared with matched-primary ovarian tumours and their expression is associated with shorter time to recurrence and poor outcome in patients with EOC. Furthermore, ectopic expression of miR-181a results in increased cellular survival, migration, invasion, drug resistance and in vivo tumour burden and dissemination. In contrast, miR-181a inhibition via decoy vector suppression and Smad7 re-expression results in significant reversion of these phenotypes. Combined, our findings highlight an unappreciated role for miR-181a, Smad7, and the TGF-β signalling pathway in high-grade serous ovarian cancer.
Ovarian cancer is often diagnosed at a late stage when metastasis has already occurred. In this study, Parikh et al. show that mir-181a is involved in mediating the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition in ovarian cancer, leading to activation of the TGF-β signalling pathway and metastasis.
PMCID: PMC3896774  PMID: 24394555

Results 1-5 (5)