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1.  CASP8 SNP D302H (rs1045485) Is Associated with Worse Survival in MYCN-Amplified Neuroblastoma Patients 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(12):e114696.
Background
Neuroblastoma is a pediatric cancer that exhibits a wide clinical spectrum ranging from spontaneous regression in low-risk patients to fatal disease in high-risk patients. The identification of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) may help explain the heterogeneity of neuroblastoma and assist in identifying patients at higher risk for poor survival. SNPs in the TP53 pathway are of special importance, as several studies have reported associations between TP53 pathway SNPs and cancer. Of note, less than 2% of neuroblastoma tumors have a TP53 mutation at diagnosis.
Patients and Methods
We selected 21 of the most frequently studied SNPs in the TP53 pathway and evaluated their association with outcome in 500 neuroblastoma patients using TaqMan allelic discrimination assays.
Results and Conclusion
We investigated the impact of 21 SNPs on overall survival, event-free survival, age at diagnosis, MYCN status, and stage of the disease in 500 neuroblastoma patients. A missense SNP in exon 10 of the CASP8 gene SNP D302H was associated with worse overall and event-free survival in patients with MYCN-amplified neuroblastoma tumors.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0114696
PMCID: PMC4263607  PMID: 25502557
2.  Expressed Repeat Elements Improve RT-qPCR Normalization across a Wide Range of Zebrafish Gene Expression Studies 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(10):e109091.
The selection and validation of stably expressed reference genes is a critical issue for proper RT-qPCR data normalization. In zebrafish expression studies, many commonly used reference genes are not generally applicable given their variability in expression levels under a variety of experimental conditions. Inappropriate use of these reference genes may lead to false interpretation of expression data and unreliable conclusions. In this study, we evaluated a novel normalization method in zebrafish using expressed repetitive elements (ERE) as reference targets, instead of specific protein coding mRNA targets. We assessed and compared the expression stability of a number of EREs to that of commonly used zebrafish reference genes in a diverse set of experimental conditions including a developmental time series, a set of different organs from adult fish and different treatments of zebrafish embryos including morpholino injections and administration of chemicals. Using geNorm and rank aggregation analysis we demonstrated that EREs have a higher overall expression stability compared to the commonly used reference genes. Moreover, we propose a limited set of ERE reference targets (hatn10, dna15ta1 and loopern4), that show stable expression throughout the wide range of experiments in this study, as strong candidates for inclusion as reference targets for qPCR normalization in future zebrafish expression studies. Our applied strategy to find and evaluate candidate expressed repeat elements for RT-qPCR data normalization has high potential to be used also for other species.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0109091
PMCID: PMC4195698  PMID: 25310091
3.  The impact of disparate isolation methods for extracellular vesicles on downstream RNA profiling 
Journal of Extracellular Vesicles  2014;3:10.3402/jev.v3.24858.
Despite an enormous interest in the role of extracellular vesicles, including exosomes, in cancer and their use as biomarkers for diagnosis, prognosis, drug response and recurrence, there is no consensus on dependable isolation protocols. We provide a comparative evaluation of 4 exosome isolation protocols for their usability, yield and purity, and their impact on downstream omics approaches for biomarker discovery. OptiPrep density gradient centrifugation outperforms ultracentrifugation and ExoQuick and Total Exosome Isolation precipitation in terms of purity, as illustrated by the highest number of CD63-positive nanovesicles, the highest enrichment in exosomal marker proteins and a lack of contaminating proteins such as extracellular Argonaute-2 complexes. The purest exosome fractions reveal a unique mRNA profile enriched for translation, ribosome, mitochondrion and nuclear lumen function. Our results demonstrate that implementation of high purification techniques is a prerequisite to obtain reliable omics data and identify exosome-specific functions and biomarkers.
doi:10.3402/jev.v3.24858
PMCID: PMC4169610  PMID: 25317274
exosomes; extracellular vesicles; ultracentrifugation; ExoQuick; OptiPrep; omics
4.  miRBase Tracker: keeping track of microRNA annotation changes 
Since 2002, information on individual microRNAs (miRNAs), such as reference names and sequences, has been stored in miRBase, the reference database for miRNA annotation. As a result of progressive insights into the miRNome and its complexity, miRBase underwent addition and deletion of miRNA records, changes in annotated miRNA sequences and adoption of more complex naming schemes over time. Unfortunately, miRBase does not allow straightforward assessment of these ongoing miRNA annotation changes, which has resulted in substantial ambiguity regarding miRNA identity and sequence in public literature, in target prediction databases and in content on various commercially available analytical platforms. As a result, correct interpretation, comparison and integration of miRNA study results are compromised, which we demonstrate here by assessing the impact of ignoring sequence annotation changes. To address this problem, we developed miRBase Tracker (www.mirbasetracker.org), an easy-to-use online database that keeps track of all historical and current miRNA annotation present in the miRBase database. Three basic functionalities allow researchers to keep their miRNA annotation up-to-date, reannotate analytical miRNA platforms and link published results with outdated annotation to the latest miRBase release. We expect miRBase Tracker to increase the transparency and annotation accuracy in the field of miRNA research.
Database URL: www.mirbasetracker.org
doi:10.1093/database/bau080
PMCID: PMC4142392  PMID: 25157074
5.  Illumina sequencing of 15 deafness genes using fragmented amplicons 
BMC Research Notes  2014;7(1):509.
Background
Resequencing of deafness related genes using GS FLX massive parallel sequencing of PCR amplicons spanning selected genes has previously been reported as a successful strategy to discover causal variants. The amplicon lengths were designed to be smaller than the sequencing read length of GS FLX technology, but are longer than Illumina sequencing technology read lengths. Fragmentation is thus required to sequence these amplicons using high throughput Illumina technology.
Methods
We performed Illumina sequencing in 4 patients on 563 multiplexed amplicons covering the exons of 15 genes involved in the hearing process. After exploring several fragmentation strategies, the amplicons were fragmented using Covaris sonication prior to library preparation. CLC genomic workbench was used to analyze the data.
Results
We achieve an excellent coverage with more than 99% of the amplicons bases covered. All variants that were previously validated using Sanger sequencing, were also called in this study. Variant calling revealed less false positive and false negative results compared to the previous study. For each patient, several variants were found that are reported by ClinVar as possible hearing loss variants.
Conclusion
Migration from GS FLX amplicon sequencing to Illumina amplicon sequencing is straightforward and leads to more accurate results.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1756-0500-7-509) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
doi:10.1186/1756-0500-7-509
PMCID: PMC4266979  PMID: 25106482
6.  Regulatory microRNA Network Identification in Bovine Blastocyst Development 
Stem Cells and Development  2013;22(13):1907-1920.
Mammalian blastocyst formation is characterized by two lineage segregations resulting in the formation of the trophectoderm, the hypoblast, and the epiblast cell lineages. Cell fate determination during these early lineage segregations is associated with changes in the expression of specific transcription factors. In addition to the transcription factor-based control, it has become clear that also microRNAs (miRNAs) play an important role in the post-transcriptional regulation of pluripotency and differentiation. To elucidate the role of miRNAs in early lineage segregation, we compared the miRNA expression in early bovine blastocysts with the more advanced stage of hatched blastocysts. Reverse transcription–quantitative PCR-based miRNA expression profiling revealed eight upregulated miRNAs (miR-127, miR-130a, miR-155, miR-196a, miR-203, miR-28, miR-29c, and miR-376a) and four downregulated miRNAs (miR-135a, miR-218, miR-335, and miR-449b) in hatched blastocysts. Through an integrative analysis of matching miRNA and mRNA expression data, candidate miRNA-mRNA interaction pairs were prioritized for validation. Using an in vitro luciferase reporter assay, we confirmed a direct interaction between miR-218 and CDH2, miR-218 and NANOG, and miR-449b and NOTCH1. By interfering with the FGF signaling pathway, we found functional evidence that miR-218, mainly expressed in the inner cell mass, regulates the NANOG expression in the bovine blastocyst in response to FGF signaling. The results of this study expand our knowledge about the miRNA signature of the bovine blastocyst and of the interactions between miRNAs and cell fate regulating transcription factors.
doi:10.1089/scd.2012.0708
PMCID: PMC3685315  PMID: 23398486
7.  miRNA Expression Profiling Enables Risk Stratification in Archived and Fresh Neuroblastoma Tumor Samples 
Purpose
More accurate assessment of prognosis is important to further improve the choice of risk-related therapy in neuroblastoma (NB) patients. In this study, we aimed to establish and validate a prognostic miRNA signature for children with NB and tested it in both fresh frozen and archived formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded (FFPE) samples.
Experimental Design
Four hundred-thirty human mature miRNAs were profiled in two patient subgroups with maximally divergent clinical courses. Univariate logistic regression analysis was used to select miRNAs correlating with NB patient survival. A 25-miRNA gene signature was built using 51 training samples, tested on 179 test samples, and validated on an independent set of 304 fresh frozen tumor samples and 75 archived FFPE samples.
Results
The 25-miRNA signature significantly discriminates the test patients with respect to progression-free and overall survival (P < 0.0001), both in the overall population and in the cohort of high-risk patients. Multivariate analysis indicates that the miRNA signature is an independent predictor of patient survival after controlling for current risk factors. The results were confirmed in an external validation set. In contrast to a previously published mRNA classifier, the 25-miRNA signature was found to be predictive for patient survival in a set of 75 FFPE neuroblastoma samples.
Conclusions
In this study, we present the largest NB miRNA expression study so far, including more than 500 NB patients. We established and validated a robust miRNA classifier, able to identify a cohort of high-risk NB patients at greater risk for adverse outcome using both fresh frozen and archived material.
doi:10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-11-0610
PMCID: PMC4008338  PMID: 22031095
8.  Target enrichment using parallel nanoliter quantitative PCR amplification 
BMC Genomics  2014;15:184.
Background
Next generation targeted resequencing is replacing Sanger sequencing at high pace in routine genetic diagnosis. The need for well validated, high quality enrichment platforms to complement the bench-top next generation sequencing devices is high.
Results
We used the WaferGen Smartchip platform to perform highly parallelized PCR based target enrichment for a set of known cancer genes in a well characterized set of cancer cell lines from the NCI60 panel. Optimization of PCR assay design and cycling conditions resulted in a high enrichment efficiency. We provide proof of a high mutation rediscovery rate and have included technical replicates to enable SNP calling validation demonstrating the high reproducibility of our enrichment platform.
Conclusions
Here we present our custom developed quantitative PCR based target enrichment platform. Using highly parallel nanoliter singleplex PCR reactions makes this a flexible and efficient platform. The high mutation validation rate shows this platform’s promise as a targeted resequencing method for multi-gene routine sequencing diagnostics.
doi:10.1186/1471-2164-15-184
PMCID: PMC4234423  PMID: 24612714
Next generation sequencing; Target enrichment; Sequence capture; Quantitative PCR; NCI60; Mutation detection
10.  Modulation of Neuroblastoma Disease Pathogenesis By An Extensive Network of Epigenetically Regulated MicroRNAs 
Oncogene  2012;32(24):2927-2936.
MicroRNAs contribute to the pathogenesis of many forms of cancer, including the pediatric cancer neuroblastoma, but the underlying mechanisms leading to altered miRNA expression are often unknown. Here, a novel integrated approach for analyzing DNA methylation coupled with miRNA and mRNA expression data sets identified 67 epigenetically regulated miRNA in neuroblastoma. A large proportion (42%) of these miRNAs were associated with poor patient survival when under-expressed in tumors. Moreover, we demonstrate that this panel of epigenetically silenced miRNAs targets a large set of genes that are over-expressed in tumors from patients with poor survival in a highly redundant manner. The genes targeted by the epigenetically regulated miRNAs are enriched for a number of biological processes, including regulation of cell differentiation. Functional studies involving ectopic over-expression of several of the epigenetically silenced miRNAs had a negative impact on neuroblastoma cell viability, providing further support to the concept that inactivation of these miRNAs is important for neuroblastoma disease pathogenesis. One locus, miR-340, induced either differentiation or apoptosis in a cell context dependent manner, indicating a tumor suppressive function for this miRNA. Intriguingly, it was determined that miR-340 is up-regulated by demethylation of an upstream genomic region that occurs during the process of neuroblastoma cell differentiation induced by all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA). Further biological studies of miR-340 revealed that it directly represses the SOX2 transcription factor by targeting of its 3’ UTR, explaining the mechanism by which SOX2 is down-regulated by ATRA. Although SOX2 contributes to the maintenance of stem cells in an undifferentiated state, we demonstrate that miR-340 mediated down-regulation of SOX2 is not required for ATRA induced differentiation to occur. In summary, our results exemplify the dynamic nature of the miRNA epigenome and identify a remarkable network of miRNA/mRNA interactions that significantly contribute to neuroblastoma disease pathogenesis.
doi:10.1038/onc.2012.311
PMCID: PMC3477279  PMID: 22797059
miRNA; methylation; tumor suppressor; neuroblastoma; SOX2
11.  Reference loci for RT-qPCR analysis of differentiating human embryonic stem cells 
BMC Molecular Biology  2013;14:21.
Background
Selecting stably expressed reference genes is essential for proper reverse transcription quantitative polymerase chain reaction gene expression analysis. However, this choice is not always straightforward. In the case of differentiating human embryonic stem (hES) cells, differentiation itself introduces changes whereby reference gene stability may be influenced.
Results
In this study, we evaluated the stability of various references during retinoic acid-induced (2 microM) differentiation of hES cells. Out of 12 candidate references, beta-2-microglobulin, ribosomal protein L13A and Alu repeats are found to be the most stable for this experimental set-up.
Conclusions
Our results show that some of the commonly used reference genes are actually not amongst the most stable loci during hES cell differentiation promoted by retinoic acid. Moreover, a novel normalization strategy based on expressed Alu repeats is validated for use in hES cell experiments.
doi:10.1186/1471-2199-14-21
PMCID: PMC3848990  PMID: 24028740
Reverse transcription quantitative PCR; Normalization; Reference genes; Alu repeats; Human embryonic stem cells; Stem cell differentiation
12.  Effective Alu Repeat Based RT-Qpcr Normalization in Cancer Cell Perturbation Experiments 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e71776.
Background
Measuring messenger RNA (mRNA) levels using the reverse transcription quantitative polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR) is common practice in many laboratories. A specific set of mRNAs as internal control reference genes is considered as the preferred strategy to normalize RT-qPCR data. Proper selection of reference genes is a critical issue, especially in cancer cells that are subjected to different in vitro manipulations. These manipulations may result in dramatic alterations in gene expression levels, even of assumed reference genes. In this study, we evaluated the expression levels of 11 commonly used reference genes as internal controls for normalization of 19 experiments that include neuroblastoma, T-ALL, melanoma, breast cancer, non small cell lung cancer (NSCL), acute myeloid leukemia (AML), prostate cancer, colorectal cancer, and cervical cancer cell lines subjected to various perturbations.
Results
The geNorm algorithm in the software package qbase+ was used to rank the candidate reference genes according to their expression stability. We observed that the stability of most of the candidate reference genes varies greatly in perturbation experiments. Expressed Alu repeats show relatively stable expression regardless of experimental condition. These Alu repeats are ranked among the best reference assays in all perturbation experiments and display acceptable average expression stability values (M<0.5).
Conclusions
We propose the use of Alu repeats as a reference assay when performing cancer cell perturbation experiments.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0071776
PMCID: PMC3743747  PMID: 23977142
13.  CLL Cells Respond to B-Cell Receptor Stimulation with a MicroRNA/mRNA Signature Associated with MYC Activation and Cell Cycle Progression 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e60275.
Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is a disease with variable clinical outcome. Several prognostic factors such as the immunoglobulin heavy chain variable genes (IGHV) mutation status are linked to the B-cell receptor (BCR) complex, supporting a role for triggering the BCR in vivo in the pathogenesis. The miRNA profile upon stimulation and correlation with IGHV mutation status is however unknown. To evaluate the transcriptional response of peripheral blood CLL cells upon BCR stimulation in vitro, miRNA and mRNA expression was measured using hybridization arrays and qPCR. We found both IGHV mutated and unmutated CLL cells to respond with increased expression of MYC and other genes associated with BCR activation, and a phenotype of cell cycle progression. Genome-wide expression studies showed hsa-miR-132-3p/hsa-miR-212 miRNA cluster induction associated with a set of downregulated genes, enriched for genes modulated by BCR activation and amplified by Myc. We conclude that BCR triggering of CLL cells induces a transcriptional response of genes associated with BCR activation, enhanced cell cycle entry and progression and suggest that part of the transcriptional profiles linked to IGHV mutation status observed in isolated peripheral blood are not cell intrinsic but rather secondary to in vivo BCR stimulation.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0060275
PMCID: PMC3613353  PMID: 23560086
14.  Focal DNA Copy Number Changes in Neuroblastoma Target MYCN Regulated Genes 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e52321.
Neuroblastoma is an embryonic tumor arising from immature sympathetic nervous system cells. Recurrent genomic alterations include MYCN and ALK amplification as well as recurrent patterns of gains and losses of whole or large partial chromosome segments. A recent whole genome sequencing effort yielded no frequently recurring mutations in genes other than those affecting ALK. However, the study further stresses the importance of DNA copy number alterations in this disease, in particular for genes implicated in neuritogenesis. Here we provide additional evidence for the importance of focal DNA copy number gains and losses, which are predominantly observed in MYCN amplified tumors. A focal 5 kb gain encompassing the MYCN regulated miR-17∼92 cluster as sole gene was detected in a neuroblastoma cell line and further analyses of the array CGH data set demonstrated enrichment for other MYCN target genes in focal gains and amplifications. Next we applied an integrated genomics analysis to prioritize MYCN down regulated genes mediated by MYCN driven miRNAs within regions of focal heterozygous or homozygous deletion. We identified RGS5, a negative regulator of G-protein signaling implicated in vascular normalization, invasion and metastasis, targeted by a focal homozygous deletion, as a new MYCN target gene, down regulated through MYCN activated miRNAs. In addition, we expand the miR-17∼92 regulatory network controlling TGFß signaling in neuroblastoma with the ring finger protein 11 encoding gene RNF11, which was previously shown to be targeted by the miR-17∼92 member miR-19b. Taken together, our data indicate that focal DNA copy number imbalances in neuroblastoma (1) target genes that are implicated in MYCN signaling, possibly selected to reinforce MYCN oncogene addiction and (2) serve as a resource for identifying new molecular targets for treatment.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0052321
PMCID: PMC3537730  PMID: 23308108
15.  LNCipedia: a database for annotated human lncRNA transcript sequences and structures 
Nucleic Acids Research  2012;41(Database issue):D246-D251.
Here, we present LNCipedia (http://www.lncipedia.org), a novel database for human long non-coding RNA (lncRNA) transcripts and genes. LncRNAs constitute a large and diverse class of non-coding RNA genes. Although several lncRNAs have been functionally annotated, the majority remains to be characterized. Different high-throughput methods to identify new lncRNAs (including RNA sequencing and annotation of chromatin-state maps) have been applied in various studies resulting in multiple unrelated lncRNA data sets. LNCipedia offers 21 488 annotated human lncRNA transcripts obtained from different sources. In addition to basic transcript information and gene structure, several statistics are determined for each entry in the database, such as secondary structure information, protein coding potential and microRNA binding sites. Our analyses suggest that, much like microRNAs, many lncRNAs have a significant secondary structure, in-line with their presumed association with proteins or protein complexes. Available literature on specific lncRNAs is linked, and users or authors can submit articles through a web interface. Protein coding potential is assessed by two different prediction algorithms: Coding Potential Calculator and HMMER. In addition, a novel strategy has been integrated for detecting potentially coding lncRNAs by automatically re-analysing the large body of publicly available mass spectrometry data in the PRIDE database. LNCipedia is publicly available and allows users to query and download lncRNA sequences and structures based on different search criteria. The database may serve as a resource to initiate small- and large-scale lncRNA studies. As an example, the LNCipedia content was used to develop a custom microarray for expression profiling of all available lncRNAs.
doi:10.1093/nar/gks915
PMCID: PMC3531107  PMID: 23042674
16.  Genome-wide promoter methylation analysis in neuroblastoma identifies prognostic methylation biomarkers 
Genome Biology  2012;13(10):R95.
Background
Accurate outcome prediction in neuroblastoma, which is necessary to enable the optimal choice of risk-related therapy, remains a challenge. To improve neuroblastoma patient stratification, this study aimed to identify prognostic tumor DNA methylation biomarkers.
Results
To identify genes silenced by promoter methylation, we first applied two independent genome-wide methylation screening methodologies to eight neuroblastoma cell lines. Specifically, we used re-expression profiling upon 5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine (DAC) treatment and massively parallel sequencing after capturing with a methyl-CpG-binding domain (MBD-seq). Putative methylation markers were selected from DAC-upregulated genes through a literature search and an upfront methylation-specific PCR on 20 primary neuroblastoma tumors, as well as through MBD- seq in combination with publicly available neuroblastoma tumor gene expression data. This yielded 43 candidate biomarkers that were subsequently tested by high-throughput methylation-specific PCR on an independent cohort of 89 primary neuroblastoma tumors that had been selected for risk classification and survival. Based on this analysis, methylation of KRT19, FAS, PRPH, CNR1, QPCT, HIST1H3C, ACSS3 and GRB10 was found to be associated with at least one of the classical risk factors, namely age, stage or MYCN status. Importantly, HIST1H3C and GNAS methylation was associated with overall and/or event-free survival.
Conclusions
This study combines two genome-wide methylation discovery methodologies and is the most extensive validation study in neuroblastoma performed thus far. We identified several novel prognostic DNA methylation markers and provide a basis for the development of a DNA methylation-based prognostic classifier in neuroblastoma.
doi:10.1186/gb-2012-13-10-r95
PMCID: PMC3491423  PMID: 23034519
17.  Molecular diagnostics for congenital hearing loss including 15 deafness genes using a next generation sequencing platform 
BMC Medical Genomics  2012;5:17.
Background
Hereditary hearing loss (HL) can originate from mutations in one of many genes involved in the complex process of hearing. Identification of the genetic defects in patients is currently labor intensive and expensive. While screening with Sanger sequencing for GJB2 mutations is common, this is not the case for the other known deafness genes (> 60). Next generation sequencing technology (NGS) has the potential to be much more cost efficient. Published methods mainly use hybridization based target enrichment procedures that are time saving and efficient, but lead to loss in sensitivity. In this study we used a semi-automated PCR amplification and NGS in order to combine high sensitivity, speed and cost efficiency.
Results
In this proof of concept study, we screened 15 autosomal recessive deafness genes in 5 patients with congenital genetic deafness. 646 specific primer pairs for all exons and most of the UTR of the 15 selected genes were designed using primerXL. Using patient specific identifiers, all amplicons were pooled and analyzed using the Roche 454 NGS technology. Three of these patients are members of families in which a region of interest has previously been characterized by linkage studies. In these, we were able to identify two new mutations in CDH23 and OTOF. For another patient, the etiology of deafness was unclear, and no causal mutation was found. In a fifth patient, included as a positive control, we could confirm a known mutation in TMC1.
Conclusions
We have developed an assay that holds great promise as a tool for screening patients with familial autosomal recessive nonsyndromal hearing loss (ARNSHL). For the first time, an efficient, reliable and cost effective genetic test, based on PCR enrichment, for newborns with undiagnosed deafness is available.
doi:10.1186/1755-8794-5-17
PMCID: PMC3443074  PMID: 22607986
Deafness; Next generation sequencing; PCR based enrichment; Genetic diagnostics
18.  Cancer Gene Prioritization for Targeted Resequencing Using FitSNP Scores 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(3):e31333.
Background
Although the throughput of next generation sequencing is increasing and at the same time the cost is substantially reduced, for the majority of laboratories whole genome sequencing of large cohorts of cancer samples is still not feasible. In addition, the low number of genomes that are being sequenced is often problematic for the downstream interpretation of the significance of the variants. Targeted resequencing can partially circumvent this problem; by focusing on a limited number of candidate cancer genes to sequence, more samples can be included in the screening, hence resulting in substantial improvement of the statistical power. In this study, a successful strategy for prioritizing candidate genes for targeted resequencing of cancer genomes is presented.
Results
Four prioritization strategies were evaluated on six different cancer types: genes were ranked using these strategies, and the positive predictive value (PPV) or mutation rate within the top-ranked genes was compared to the baseline mutation rate in each tumor type. Successful strategies generate gene lists in which the top is enriched for known mutated genes, as evidenced by an increase in PPV. A clear example of such an improvement is seen in colon cancer, where the PPV is increased by 2.3 fold compared to the baseline level when 100 top fitSNP genes are sequenced.
Conclusions
A gene prioritization strategy based on the fitSNP scores appears to be most successful in identifying mutated cancer genes across different tumor entities, with variance of gene expression levels as a good second best.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0031333
PMCID: PMC3291573  PMID: 22396732
19.  N-Cadherin in Neuroblastoma Disease: Expression and Clinical Significance 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(2):e31206.
One of the first and most important steps in the metastatic cascade is the loss of cell-cell and cell-matrix interactions. N-cadherin, a crucial mediator of homotypic and heterotypic cell-cell interactions, might play a central role in the metastasis of neuroblastoma (NB), a solid tumor of neuroectodermal origin. Using Reverse Transcription Quantitative PCR (RT-qPCR), Western blot, immunocytochemistry and Tissue MicroArrays (TMA) we demonstrate the expression of N-cadherin in neuroblastoma tumors and cell lines. All neuroblastic tumors (n = 356) and cell lines (n = 10) expressed various levels of the adhesion protein. The N-cadherin mRNA expression was significantly lower in tumor samples from patients suffering metastatic disease. Treatment of NB cell lines with the N-cadherin blocking peptide ADH-1 (Exherin, Adherex Technologies Inc.), strongly inhibited tumor cell proliferation in vitro by inducing apoptosis. Our results suggest that N-cadherin signaling may play a role in neuroblastoma disease, marking involvement of metastasis and determining neuroblastoma cell viability.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0031206
PMCID: PMC3280274  PMID: 22355346
20.  Accurate RT-qPCR gene expression analysis on cell culture lysates 
Scientific Reports  2012;2:222.
Gene expression quantification on cultured cells using the reverse transcription quantitative polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR) typically involves an RNA purification step that limits sample processing throughput and precludes parallel analysis of large numbers of samples. An approach in which cDNA synthesis is carried out on crude cell lysates instead of on purified RNA samples can offer a fast and straightforward alternative. Here, we evaluate such an approach, benchmarking Ambion's Cells-to-CT kit with the classic workflow of RNA purification and cDNA synthesis, and demonstrate its good accuracy and superior sensitivity.
doi:10.1038/srep00222
PMCID: PMC3257325  PMID: 22355736
21.  The miR-17-92 microRNA cluster regulates multiple components of the TGFβ-pathway in neuroblastoma 
Molecular cell  2010;40(5):762-773.
Summary
The miR-17-92 microRNA cluster is often activated in cancer cells, but the identity of its targets remains elusive. Using SILAC and quantitative mass spectrometry, we examined the effects of activation of the miR-17-92 cluster on global protein expression in neuroblastoma cells. Our results reveal cooperation between individual miR-17-92 miRNAs and implicate miR-17-92 in multiple hallmarks of cancer, including proliferation and cell adhesion. Most importantly, we show that miR-17-92 is a potent inhibitor of TGFβ-signaling. By functioning both upstream and downstream of pSMAD2, miR-17-92 activation triggers downregulation of multiple key effectors along the TGFβ-signaling cascade as well as through direct inhibition of TGFβ-responsive genes.
doi:10.1016/j.molcel.2010.11.038
PMCID: PMC3032380  PMID: 21145484
22.  Practical Tools to Implement Massive Parallel Pyrosequencing of PCR Products in Next Generation Molecular Diagnostics 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(9):e25531.
Despite improvements in terms of sequence quality and price per basepair, Sanger sequencing remains restricted to screening of individual disease genes. The development of massively parallel sequencing (MPS) technologies heralded an era in which molecular diagnostics for multigenic disorders becomes reality. Here, we outline different PCR amplification based strategies for the screening of a multitude of genes in a patient cohort. We performed a thorough evaluation in terms of set-up, coverage and sequencing variants on the data of 10 GS-FLX experiments (over 200 patients). Crucially, we determined the actual coverage that is required for reliable diagnostic results using MPS, and provide a tool to calculate the number of patients that can be screened in a single run. Finally, we provide an overview of factors contributing to false negative or false positive mutation calls and suggest ways to maximize sensitivity and specificity, both important in a routine setting. By describing practical strategies for screening of multigenic disorders in a multitude of samples and providing answers to questions about minimum required coverage, the number of patients that can be screened in a single run and the factors that may affect sensitivity and specificity we hope to facilitate the implementation of MPS technology in molecular diagnostics.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0025531
PMCID: PMC3184136  PMID: 21980484
23.  The microRNA body map: dissecting microRNA function through integrative genomics 
Nucleic Acids Research  2011;39(20):e136.
While a growing body of evidence implicates regulatory miRNA modules in various aspects of human disease and development, insights into specific miRNA function remain limited. Here, we present an innovative approach to elucidate tissue-specific miRNA functions that goes beyond miRNA target prediction and expression correlation. This approach is based on a multi-level integration of corresponding miRNA and mRNA gene expression levels, miRNA target prediction, transcription factor target prediction and mechanistic models of gene network regulation. Predicted miRNA functions were either validated experimentally or compared to published data. The predicted miRNA functions are accessible in the miRNA bodymap, an interactive online compendium and mining tool of high-dimensional newly generated and published miRNA expression profiles. The miRNA bodymap enables prioritization of candidate miRNAs based on their expression pattern or functional annotation across tissue or disease subgroup. The miRNA bodymap project provides users with a single one-stop data-mining solution and has great potential to become a community resource.
doi:10.1093/nar/gkr646
PMCID: PMC3203610  PMID: 21835775
24.  Chromosomal and miRNA Expression Patterns Reveal Biologically Distinct Subgroups of 11q− Neuroblastoma 
Purpose
The purpose of this study was to further define the biology of the 11q− neuroblastoma tumor subgroup by the integration of aCGH with miRNA expression profiling data to determine if improved patient stratification is possible.
Experimental Design
A set of primary neuroblastoma (n=160) which was broadly representative of all genetic subtypes was analyzed by aCGH and for the expression of 430 miRNAs. A 15 miRNA expression signature previously demonstrated to be predictive of clinical outcome was used to analyze an independent cohort of 11q− tumors (n=37).
Results
Loss of 4p and gain of 7q occurred at a significantly higher frequency in the 11q−tumors, further defining the genetic characteristics of this subtype. The 11q− tumors could be split into two subgroups using a miRNA expression survival signature which differed significantly in both clinical outcome and the overall frequency of large scale genomic imbalances, with the poor survival subgroup having significantly more imbalances. MiRNAs from the expression signature which were up-regulated in unfavorable tumors were predicted to target down-regulated genes from a published mRNA expression classifier of clinical outcome at a higher than expected frequency, indicating the miRNAs might contribute to the regulation of genes within the signature.
Conclusion
We demonstrate that two distinct biological subtypes of neuroblastoma with loss of 11q occur which differ in their miRNA expression profiles, frequency of segmental imbalances and clinical outcome. A miRNA expression signature, combined with an analysis of segmental imbalances, provides greater prediction of EFS and OS outcomes than 11q status by itself, improving patient stratification.
doi:10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-09-3215
PMCID: PMC2880207  PMID: 20406844
aCGH; MYCN; neuroblastoma; miRNA
25.  Monoallelic but not bialleleic loss of Dicer1 promotes tumorigenesis in vivo 
Cell death and differentiation  2009;17(4):633-641.
SUMMARY
Human tumors are characterized by widespread reduction in microRNA (miRNA) expression [1], although it is unclear how such changes come about and whether they have an etiological role in the disease. Importantly, miRNA-knockdown has been shown to enhance the tumorigenic potential of human lung adenocarcinoma cells [2]. A defect in miRNA-processing is one possible mechanism for the global down-regulation. To explore this possibility in more detail in vivo we have manipulated Dicer1 gene dosage in a mouse model of retinoblastoma. We show that while monoallelic loss of Dicer1 does not affect normal retinal development it dramatically accelerates tumor formation on a retinoblastoma-sensitized background. Importantly, these tumors retain one wild-type Dicer1 allele and exhibit only partial decrease in miRNA-processing. Accordingly, in silico analysis of human cancer genome data reveals frequent hemizygous, but not homozygous, deletions of DICER1. Strikingly, complete loss of Dicer1 function in mice did not accelerate retinoblastoma formation. miRNA profiling of these tumors identified members of the let-7 and miR-34 families as candidate tumor suppressors in retinoblastoma. We conclude that Dicer1 functions as a haploinsufficient tumor suppressor. This finding has implications for cancer aetiology and cancer therapy.
doi:10.1038/cdd.2009.202
PMCID: PMC2892162  PMID: 20019750
Dicer; microRNA; retinoblastoma; tumor suppressor; haploinsufficiency

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