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1.  Differential expression of lncRNAs during the HIV replication cycle: an underestimated layer in the HIV-host interplay 
Scientific Reports  2016;6:36111.
Studying the effects of HIV infection on the host transcriptome has typically focused on protein-coding genes. However, recent advances in the field of RNA sequencing revealed that long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) add an extensive additional layer to the cell’s molecular network. Here, we performed transcriptome profiling throughout a primary HIV infection in vitro to investigate lncRNA expression at the different HIV replication cycle processes (reverse transcription, integration and particle production). Subsequently, guilt-by-association, transcription factor and co-expression analysis were performed to infer biological roles for the lncRNAs identified in the HIV-host interplay. Many lncRNAs were suggested to play a role in mechanisms relying on proteasomal and ubiquitination pathways, apoptosis, DNA damage responses and cell cycle regulation. Through transcription factor binding analysis, we found that lncRNAs display a distinct transcriptional regulation profile as compared to protein coding mRNAs, suggesting that mRNAs and lncRNAs are independently modulated. In addition, we identified five differentially expressed lncRNA-mRNA pairs with mRNA involvement in HIV pathogenesis with possible cis regulatory lncRNAs that control nearby mRNA expression and function. Altogether, the present study demonstrates that lncRNAs add a new dimension to the HIV-host interplay and should be further investigated as they may represent targets for controlling HIV replication.
PMCID: PMC5080576  PMID: 27782208
2.  Hsa-mir-145 is the top EWS-FLI1 repressed microRNA involved in a positive feed-back loop in Ewing’s sarcoma 
Oncogene  2011;30(18):2173-2180.
EWS-FLI1 is a chromosome translocation-derived chimeric transcription factor that plays a central and rate-limiting role in the pathogenesis of Ewing’s sarcoma. While the EWS-FLI1 transcriptomic signature has been extensively characterized on the mRNA level, information on its impact on non-coding RNA expression is lacking. We have performed a genome-wide analysis of microRNAs affected by RNAi-mediated silencing of EWS-FLI1 in Ewing’s sarcoma cell lines and differentially expressed between primary Ewing’s sarcoma and mesenchymal progenitor cells. Here, we report on the identification of hsa-mir-145 as the top EWS-FLI1 repressed microRNA. Upon knockdown of EWS-FLI1, hsa-mir-145 expression dramatically increases in all Ewing’s sarcoma cell lines tested. Vice versa, ectopic expression of the microRNA in Ewing’s sarcoma cell lines strongly reduced EWS-FLI1 protein, while transfection of an anti-mir to hsa-mir-145 increased EWS-FLI1 levels. Reporter gene assays revealed that this modulation of EWS-FLI1 protein was mediated by the microRNA targeting the FLI1 3’UTR. Mutual regulation of EWS-FLI1 and hsa-mir-145 was mirrored by an inverse correlation between their expression levels in 4 Ewing’s sarcoma cell lines tested. Consistent with the role of EWS-FLI1 in Ewing’s sarcoma growth regulation, forced hsa-mir-145 expression halted Ewing’s sarcoma cell line growth. These results identify feed-back regulation between EWS-FLI1 and hsa-mir-145 as an important component of EWS-FLI1 mediated Ewing’s sarcomagenesis that may open a new avenue to future microRNA-mediated therapy of this devastating malignant disease.
PMCID: PMC4959567  PMID: 21217773
Ewing’s Sarcoma; microRNA; mir-145; EWS-FLI1
3.  Long non-coding RNA expression profiling in the NCI60 cancer cell line panel using high-throughput RT-qPCR 
Scientific Data  2016;3:160052.
Long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) form a new class of RNA molecules implicated in various aspects of protein coding gene expression regulation. To study lncRNAs in cancer, we generated expression profiles for 1707 human lncRNAs in the NCI60 cancer cell line panel using a high-throughput nanowell RT-qPCR platform. We describe how qPCR assays were designed and validated and provide processed and normalized expression data for further analysis. Data quality is demonstrated by matching the lncRNA expression profiles with phenotypic and genomic characteristics of the cancer cell lines. This data set can be integrated with publicly available omics and pharmacological data sets to uncover novel associations between lncRNA expression and mRNA expression, miRNA expression, DNA copy number, protein coding gene mutation status or drug response
PMCID: PMC4932877  PMID: 27377824
Long non-coding RNAs; Reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction; Cancer genomics; High-throughput screening
4.  Straightforward and sensitive RT-qPCR based gene expression analysis of FFPE samples 
Scientific Reports  2016;6:21418.
Fragmented RNA from formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded (FFPE) tissue is a known obstacle to gene expression analysis. In this study, the impact of RNA integrity, gene-specific reverse transcription and targeted cDNA preamplification was quantified in terms of reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR) sensitivity by measuring 48 protein coding genes on eight duplicate cultured cancer cell pellet FFPE samples and twenty cancer tissue FFPE samples. More intact RNA modestly increased gene detection sensitivity by 1.6 fold (earlier detection by 0.7 PCR cycles, 95% CI = 0.593–0.850). Application of gene-specific priming instead of whole transcriptome priming during reverse transcription further improved RT-qPCR sensitivity by a considerable 4.0 fold increase (earlier detection by 2.0 PCR cycles, 95% CI = 1.73–2.32). Targeted cDNA preamplification resulted in the strongest increase of RT-qPCR sensitivity and enabled earlier detection by an average of 172.4 fold (7.43 PCR cycles, 95% CI = 6.83–7.05). We conclude that gene-specific reverse transcription and targeted cDNA preamplification are adequate methods for accurate and sensitive RT-qPCR based gene expression analysis of FFPE material. The presented methods do not involve expensive or complex procedures and can be easily implemented in any routine RT-qPCR practice.
PMCID: PMC4761903  PMID: 26898768
5.  Identification of miRNAs contributing to neuroblastoma chemoresistance 
The emergence of the role of microRNAs (miRNAs) in exacerbating drug resistance of tumours is recently being highlighted as a crucial research field for future clinical management of drug resistant tumours. The purpose of this study was to identify dys-regulations in expression of individual and/or networks of miRNAs that may have direct effect on neuroblastoma (NB) drug resistance.
Individual subcultures of chemosensitive SH-SY5Y and UKF-NB-3 cells were rendered chemoresistant to doxorubicin (SH-SY5Y, UKF-NB-3) or etoposide (SH-SY5Y). In each validated chemoresistance model, the parental and subcultured cell lines were analysed for miRNA expression profiling, using a high-throughput quantitative polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR) miRNA profiling platform for a total of 668 miRNAs.
A unique expression signature of miRNAs was found to be differentially expressed (higher than 2-fold change) within all three NB chemoresistance models. Four miRNAs were upregulated in the subcultured chemoresistant cell line. Three miRNAs were found to be downregulated in the chemoresistant cell lines for all models.
Based on the initial miRNA findings, this study elucidates the dys-regulation of four miRNAs in three separate NB chemoresistant cell line models, spanning two cell lines (SH-SY5Y and UKF-NB-3) and two chemotherapeutic agents (doxorubicin and etoposide). These miRNAs may thus be possibly linked to chemoresistance induction in NB. Such miRNAs are good candidates to be novel drug targets for future miRNA based therapies against aggressive tumours that are not responding to conventional chemotherapy.
PMCID: PMC4427660  PMID: 25973145
miRNA; Drug; Resistance; Chemoresistance; Neuroblastoma
6.  Genome wide expression profiling of p53 regulated miRNAs in neuroblastoma 
Scientific Reports  2015;5:9027.
Restoration of the antitumor activity of p53 could offer a promising approach for the treatment of neuroblastoma. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are important mediators of p53 activity, but their role in the p53 response has not yet been comprehensively addressed in neuroblastoma. Therefore, we set out to characterize alterations in miRNA expression that are induced by p53 activation in neuroblastoma cells. Genome-wide miRNA expression analysis showed that miR-34a-5p, miR-182-5p, miR-203a, miR-222-3p, and miR-432-5p are upregulated following nutlin-3 treatment in a p53 dependent manner. The function of miR-182-5p, miR-203a, miR-222-3p, and miR-432-5p was analyzed by ectopic overexpression of miRNA mimics. We observed that these p53-regulated miRNAs inhibit the proliferation of neuroblastoma cells to varying degrees, with the most profound growth inhibition recorded for miR-182-5p. Overexpression of miR-182-5p promoted apoptosis in some neuroblastoma cell lines and induced neuronal differentiation of NGP cells. Using Chromatin Immunoprecipitation-qPCR (ChIP-qPCR), we did not observe direct binding of p53 to MIR182, MIR203, MIR222, and MIR432 in neuroblastoma cells. Taken together, our findings yield new insights in the network of p53-regulated miRNAs in neuroblastoma.
PMCID: PMC4356961  PMID: 25762502
7.  MYCN-targeting miRNAs are predominantly downregulated during MYCN-driven neuroblastoma tumor formation 
Oncotarget  2014;6(7):5204-5216.
MYCN is a transcription factor that plays key roles in both normal development and cancer. In neuroblastoma, MYCN acts as a major oncogenic driver through pleiotropic effects regulated by multiple protein encoding genes as well as microRNAs (miRNAs). MYCN activity is tightly controlled at the level of transcription and protein stability through various mechanisms. Like most genes, MYCN is further controlled by miRNAs, but the full complement of all miRNAs implicated in this process has not been determined through an unbiased approach. To elucidate the role of miRNAs in regulation of MYCN, we thus explored the MYCN-miRNA interactome to establish miRNAs controlling MYCN expression levels. We combined results from an unbiased and genome-wide high-throughput miRNA target reporter screen with miRNA and mRNA expression data from patients and a murine neuroblastoma progression model. We identified 29 miRNAs targeting MYCN, of which 12 miRNAs are inversely correlated with MYCN expression or activity in neuroblastoma tumor tissue. The majority of MYCN-targeting miRNAs in neuroblastoma showed a decrease in expression during murine MYCN-driven neuroblastoma tumor development. Therefore, we provide evidence that MYCN-targeting miRNAs are preferentially downregulated in MYCN-driven neuroblastoma, suggesting that MYCN negatively controls the expression of these miRNAs, to safeguard its expression.
PMCID: PMC4467143  PMID: 25294817
MYCN; microRNA; neuroblastoma; feedback regulation; cross-species
8.  Ectopic MicroRNA-150-5p Transcription Sensitizes Glucocorticoid Therapy Response in MM1S Multiple Myeloma Cells but Fails to Overcome Hormone Therapy Resistance in MM1R Cells 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(12):e113842.
Glucocorticoids (GCs) selectively trigger cell death in the multiple myeloma cell line MM1S which express NR3C1/Glucocorticoid Receptor (GR) protein, but fail to kill MM1R cells which lack GR protein. Given recent demonstrations of altered microRNA profiles in a diverse range of haematological malignancies and drug resistance, we characterized GC inducible mRNA and microRNA transcription profiles in GC sensitive MM1S as compared to GC resistant MM1R cells. Transcriptome analysis revealed that GCs regulate expression of multiple genes involved in cell cycle control, cell organization, cell death and immunological disease in MM1S cells, which remain unaffected in MM1R cells. With respect to microRNAs, mir-150-5p was identified as the most time persistent GC regulated microRNA, out of 5 QPCR validated microRNAs (mir-26b, mir-125a-5p, mir-146-5p, mir-150-5p, and mir-184), which are GC inducible in MM1S but not in MM1R cells. Functional studies further revealed that ectopic transfection of a synthetic mir-150-5p mimics GR dependent gene expression changes involved in cell death and cell proliferation pathways. Remarkably, despite the gene expression changes observed, overexpression of mir-150-5p in absence of GCs did not trigger significant cytotoxicity in MM1S or MM1R cells. This suggests the requirement of additional steps in GC induced cell death, which can not be mimicked by mir-150-5p overexpression alone. Interestingly, a combination of mir-150-5p transfection with low doses GC in MM1S cells was found to sensitize therapy response, whereas opposite effects could be observed with a mir-150-5p specific antagomir. Although mir-150-5p overexpression did not substantially change GR expression levels, it was found that mir-150-5p evokes GR specific effects through indirect mRNA regulation of GR interacting transcription factors and hormone receptors, GR chaperones, as well as various effectors of unfolded protein stress and chemokine signalling. Altogether GC-inducible mir-150-5p adds another level of regulation to GC specific therapeutic responses in multiple myeloma.
PMCID: PMC4256227  PMID: 25474406
9.  An update on LNCipedia: a database for annotated human lncRNA sequences 
Nucleic Acids Research  2014;43(Database issue):D174-D180.
The human genome is pervasively transcribed, producing thousands of non-coding RNA transcripts. The majority of these transcripts are long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) and novel lncRNA genes are being identified at rapid pace. To streamline these efforts, we created LNCipedia, an online repository of lncRNA transcripts and annotation. Here, we present LNCipedia 3.0 (, the latest version of the publicly available human lncRNA database. Compared to the previous version of LNCipedia, the database grew over five times in size, gaining over 90 000 new lncRNA transcripts. Assessment of the protein-coding potential of LNCipedia entries is improved with state-of-the art methods that include large-scale reprocessing of publicly available proteomics data. As a result, a high-confidence set of lncRNA transcripts with low coding potential is defined and made available for download. In addition, a tool to assess lncRNA gene conservation between human, mouse and zebrafish has been implemented.
PMCID: PMC4383901  PMID: 25378313
10.  Robust Selection of Cancer Survival Signatures from High-Throughput Genomic Data Using Two-Fold Subsampling 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(10):e108818.
Identifying relevant signatures for clinical patient outcome is a fundamental task in high-throughput studies. Signatures, composed of features such as mRNAs, miRNAs, SNPs or other molecular variables, are often non-overlapping, even though they have been identified from similar experiments considering samples with the same type of disease. The lack of a consensus is mostly due to the fact that sample sizes are far smaller than the numbers of candidate features to be considered, and therefore signature selection suffers from large variation. We propose a robust signature selection method that enhances the selection stability of penalized regression algorithms for predicting survival risk. Our method is based on an aggregation of multiple, possibly unstable, signatures obtained with the preconditioned lasso algorithm applied to random (internal) subsamples of a given cohort data, where the aggregated signature is shrunken by a simple thresholding strategy. The resulting method, RS-PL, is conceptually simple and easy to apply, relying on parameters automatically tuned by cross validation. Robust signature selection using RS-PL operates within an (external) subsampling framework to estimate the selection probabilities of features in multiple trials of RS-PL. These probabilities are used for identifying reliable features to be included in a signature. Our method was evaluated on microarray data sets from neuroblastoma, lung adenocarcinoma, and breast cancer patients, extracting robust and relevant signatures for predicting survival risk. Signatures obtained by our method achieved high prediction performance and robustness, consistently over the three data sets. Genes with high selection probability in our robust signatures have been reported as cancer-relevant. The ordering of predictor coefficients associated with signatures was well-preserved across multiple trials of RS-PL, demonstrating the capability of our method for identifying a transferable consensus signature. The software is available as an R package rsig at CRAN (
PMCID: PMC4190101  PMID: 25295525
11.  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.
PMCID: PMC4169610  PMID: 25317274
exosomes; extracellular vesicles; ultracentrifugation; ExoQuick; OptiPrep; omics
12.  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 (, 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:
PMCID: PMC4142392  PMID: 25157074
13.  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.
PMCID: PMC3685315  PMID: 23398486
14.  miRNA Expression Profiling Enables Risk Stratification in Archived and Fresh Neuroblastoma Tumor Samples 
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.
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.
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.
PMCID: PMC4008338  PMID: 22031095
16.  Effective Alu Repeat Based RT-Qpcr Normalization in Cancer Cell Perturbation Experiments 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e71776.
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.
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).
We propose the use of Alu repeats as a reference assay when performing cancer cell perturbation experiments.
PMCID: PMC3743747  PMID: 23977142
17.  Dynamic Activity of miR-125b and miR-93 during Murine Neural Stem Cell Differentiation In Vitro and in the Subventricular Zone Neurogenic Niche 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e67411.
Several microRNAs (miRNAs) that are either specifically enriched or highly expressed in neurons and glia have been described, but the identification of miRNAs modulating neural stem cell (NSC) biology remains elusive. In this study, we exploited high throughput miRNA expression profiling to identify candidate miRNAs enriched in NSC/early progenitors derived from the murine subventricular zone (SVZ). Then, we used lentiviral miRNA sensor vectors (LV.miRT) to monitor the activity of shortlisted miRNAs with cellular and temporal resolution during NSC differentiation, taking advantage of in vitro and in vivo models that recapitulate physiological neurogenesis and gliogenesis and using known neuronal- and glial-specific miRNAs as reference. The LV.miRT platform allowed us monitoring endogenous miRNA activity in low represented cell populations within a bulk culture or within the complexity of CNS tissue, with high sensitivity and specificity. In this way we validated and extended previous results on the neuronal-specific miR-124 and the astroglial-specific miR-23a. Importantly, we describe for the first time a cell type- and differentiation stage-specific modulation of miR-93 and miR-125b in SVZ-derived NSC cultures and in the SVZ neurogenic niche in vivo, suggesting key roles of these miRNAs in regulating NSC function.
PMCID: PMC3694868  PMID: 23826292
18.  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.
PMCID: PMC3613353  PMID: 23560086
19.  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.
PMCID: PMC3537730  PMID: 23308108
20.  LNCipedia: a database for annotated human lncRNA transcript sequences and structures 
Nucleic Acids Research  2012;41(Database issue):D246-D251.
Here, we present LNCipedia (, 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.
PMCID: PMC3531107  PMID: 23042674
21.  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.
PMCID: PMC3257325  PMID: 22355736
22.  The miR-17-92 microRNA cluster regulates multiple components of the TGFβ-pathway in neuroblastoma 
Molecular cell  2010;40(5):762-773.
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.
PMCID: PMC3032380  PMID: 21145484
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.
PMCID: PMC3203610  PMID: 21835775
24.  Chromosomal and miRNA Expression Patterns Reveal Biologically Distinct Subgroups of 11q− Neuroblastoma 
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
PMCID: PMC2892162  PMID: 20019750
Dicer; microRNA; retinoblastoma; tumor suppressor; haploinsufficiency

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