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1.  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
2.  The role of genetic and epigenetic alterations in neuroblastoma disease pathogenesis 
Pediatric surgery international  2012;29(2):101-119.
Neuroblastoma is a highly heterogeneous tumor accounting for 15 % of all pediatric cancer deaths. Clinical behavior ranges from the spontaneous regression of localized, asymptomatic tumors, as well as metastasized tumors in infants, to rapid progression and resistance to therapy. Genomic amplification of the MYCN oncogene has been used to predict outcome in neuroblastoma for over 30 years, however, recent methodological advances including miR-NA and mRNA profiling, comparative genomic hybridization (array-CGH), and whole-genome sequencing have enabled the detailed analysis of the neuroblastoma genome, leading to the identification of new prognostic markers and better patient stratification. In this review, we will describe the main genetic factors responsible for these diverse clinical phenotypes in neuroblastoma, the chronology of their discovery, and the impact on patient prognosis.
doi:10.1007/s00383-012-3239-7
PMCID: PMC3557462  PMID: 23274701
Neuroblastoma; MYCN; MiRNA; DNA methylation; ALK; PTPRD
3.  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
4.  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
5.  Metastasis Suppressor microRNA-335 Targets the Formin Family of Actin Nucleators 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e78428.
MiRNAs can have pleiotropic effects by targeting multiple genes belonging to diverse signalling networks. Alternatively, miRNAs can enhance the potency of their cellular effects by targeting multiple genes within the same genetic pathway. Previously, we and others have demonstrated that miR-335 is a potent suppressor of tumour cell migration, invasion and metastasis, in part by targeting several genes involved in these cellular processes, including ROCK1, MAPK1, LRG1, SP1 and SOX4. Here, we demonstrate that direct targeting of multiple members of the formin family of actin nucleators contributes to the inhibitory effects of miR-335 in neuroblastoma cells. We demonstrate that miR-335 regulates the expression of at least five formin family members and validate three family members, FMNL3, FMN2 and DAAM2, as direct targets of miR-335. The contribution of the formin family genes to cancer progression and metastasis has recently begun to emerge and here we demonstrate for the first time the ability of FMN2 and DAAM2 to regulate tumour cell migration and invasion, using siRNA-mediated inhibition of each of these formin genes. Finally, we demonstrate that the formin genes, in particular FMNL3, are responsible for the protrusion of actin-rich filopodia structures that contribute to the enhanced migratory and invasive potential associated with reduced expression of miR-335. Thus, direct targeting of the formin family contributes to the metastasis suppressing abilities of miR-335 by providing a direct regulatory link to the actin assembly machinery of the cell. We conclude that miR-335 is a master regulator of tumour cell migration and invasion by directly targeting a plethora of genes that effectively control cell migratory processes.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0078428
PMCID: PMC3818330  PMID: 24223803
6.  Expression profiling the microRNA response to epileptic preconditioning identifies miR184 as a modulator of seizure-induced neuronal death 
Experimental neurology  2012;237(2):346-354.
Brief seizures (epileptic/seizure preconditioning) are capable of activating endogenous protective pathways in the brain which can temporarily generate a damage-refractory state against subsequent and otherwise harmful episodes of prolonged seizures (tolerance). Altered expression of microRNAs, a class of non-coding RNAs that function post-transcriptionally to regulate mRNA translation has recently been implicated in the molecular mechanism of epileptic tolerance. Here we characterized the effect of seizure preconditioning induced by low-dose systemic kainic acid on microRNA expression in the hippocampus of mice. Seizure preconditioning resulted in up-regulation of 25 mature microRNAs in the CA3 subfield of the mouse hippocampus, with the highest levels detected for miR-184. This finding was supported by real-time PCR and in situ hybridization showing increased neuronal miR-184 levels and a reduction in protein levels of a miR-184 target. Inhibiting miR-184 expression in vivo resulted in the emergence of neuronal death after preconditioning seizures and increased seizure-induced neuronal death following status epilepticus in previously preconditioned animals, without altered electrographic seizure durations. The present study suggests miRNA up-regulation after preconditioning may contribute to development of epileptic tolerance and identifies miR-184 as a novel contributor to neuronal survival following both mild and severe seizures.
doi:10.1016/j.expneurol.2012.06.029
PMCID: PMC3485639  PMID: 22771761
Dicer; Epigenetics; Hippocampus; Status epilepticus; Temporal lobe Epilepsy
7.  ERBB3 is a marker of a ganglioneuroblastoma/ganglioneuroma-like expression profile in neuroblastic tumours 
Molecular Cancer  2013;12:70.
Background
Neuroblastoma (NB) tumours are commonly divided into three cytogenetic subgroups. However, by unsupervised principal components analysis of gene expression profiles we recently identified four distinct subgroups, r1-r4. In the current study we characterized these different subgroups in more detail, with a specific focus on the fourth divergent tumour subgroup (r4).
Methods
Expression microarray data from four international studies corresponding to 148 neuroblastic tumour cases were subject to division into four expression subgroups using a previously described 6-gene signature. Differentially expressed genes between groups were identified using Significance Analysis of Microarray (SAM). Next, gene expression network modelling was performed to map signalling pathways and cellular processes representing each subgroup. Findings were validated at the protein level by immunohistochemistry and immunoblot analyses.
Results
We identified several significantly up-regulated genes in the r4 subgroup of which the tyrosine kinase receptor ERBB3 was most prominent (fold change: 132–240). By gene set enrichment analysis (GSEA) the constructed gene network of ERBB3 (n = 38 network partners) was significantly enriched in the r4 subgroup in all four independent data sets. ERBB3 was also positively correlated to the ErbB family members EGFR and ERBB2 in all data sets, and a concurrent overexpression was seen in the r4 subgroup. Further studies of histopathology categories using a fifth data set of 110 neuroblastic tumours, showed a striking similarity between the expression profile of r4 to ganglioneuroblastoma (GNB) and ganglioneuroma (GN) tumours. In contrast, the NB histopathological subtype was dominated by mitotic regulating genes, characterizing unfavourable NB subgroups in particular. The high ErbB3 expression in GN tumour types was verified at the protein level, and showed mainly expression in the mature ganglion cells.
Conclusions
Conclusively, this study demonstrates the importance of performing unsupervised clustering and subtype discovery of data sets prior to analyses to avoid a mixture of tumour subtypes, which may otherwise give distorted results and lead to incorrect conclusions. The current study identifies ERBB3 as a clear-cut marker of a GNB/GN-like expression profile, and we suggest a 7-gene expression signature (including ERBB3) as a complement to histopathology analysis of neuroblastic tumours. Further studies of ErbB3 and other ErbB family members and their role in neuroblastic differentiation and pathogenesis are warranted.
doi:10.1186/1476-4598-12-70
PMCID: PMC3766266  PMID: 23835063
Microarray; Expression; Cancer; Systems biology; Oncology; Network; Reverse engineering; Unsupervised; Clustering; Cell cycle; Spindle assembly; Her-3; HER3; ERBB3; Her-2; HER2; ERBB2; EGFR; ERBB1; BIRC5; Survivin; MYCN; N-myc; ALK; PHOX2B; NTRK1; CCND1
8.  MiRNA-335 suppresses neuroblastoma cell invasiveness by direct targeting of multiple genes from the non-canonical TGF-β signalling pathway 
Carcinogenesis  2012;33(5):976-985.
Transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) signaling regulates many diverse cellular activities through both canonical (SMAD-dependent) and non-canonical branches, which includes the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK), Rho-like guanosine triphosphatase and phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase/AKT pathways. Here, we demonstrate that miR-335 directly targets and downregulates genes in the TGF-β non-canonical pathways, including the Rho-associated coiled-coil containing protein (ROCK1) and MAPK1, resulting in reduced phosphorylation of downstream pathway members. Specifically, inhibition of ROCK1 and MAPK1 reduces phosphorylation levels of the motor protein myosin light chain (MLC) leading to a significant inhibition of the invasive and migratory potential of neuroblastoma cells. Additionally, miR-335 targets the leucine-rich alpha-2-glycoprotein 1 (LRG1) messenger RNA, which similarly results in a significant reduction in the phosphorylation status of MLC and a decrease in neuroblastoma cell migration and invasion. Thus, we link LRG1 to the migratory machinery of the cell, altering its activity presumably by exerting its effect within the non-canonical TGF-β pathway. Moreover, we demonstrate that the MYCN transcription factor, whose coding sequence is highly amplified in a particularly clinically aggressive neuroblastoma tumor subtype, directly binds to a region immediately upstream of the miR-335 transcriptional start site, resulting in transcriptional repression. We conclude that MYCN contributes to neuroblastoma cell migration and invasion, by directly downregulating miR-335, resulting in the upregulation of the TGF-β signaling pathway members ROCK1, MAPK1 and putative member LRG1, which positively promote this process. Our results provide novel insight into the direct regulation of TGF-β non-canonical signaling by miR-335, which in turn is downregulated by MYCN.
doi:10.1093/carcin/bgs114
PMCID: PMC3334516  PMID: 22382496
9.  Expressional alterations in functional ultra-conserved non-coding rnas in response to all-trans retinoic acid - induced differentiation in neuroblastoma cells 
BMC Cancer  2013;13:184.
Background
Ultra-conserved regions (UCRs) are segments of the genome (≥ 200 bp) that exhibit 100% DNA sequence conservation between human, mouse and rat. Transcribed UCRs (T-UCRs) have been shown to be differentially expressed in cancers versus normal tissue, indicating a possible role in carcinogenesis. All-trans-retinoic acid (ATRA) causes some neuroblastoma (NB) cell lines to undergo differentiation and leads to a significant decrease in the oncogenic transcription factor MYCN. Here, we examine the impact of ATRA treatment on T-UCR expression and investigate the biological significance of these changes.
Methods
We designed a custom tiling microarray to profile the expression of 481 T-UCRs in sense and anti-sense orientation (962 potential transcripts) in untreated and ATRA-treated neuroblastoma cell lines (SH-SY5Y, SK-N-BE, LAN-5). Following identification of significantly differentially expressed T-UCRs, we carried out siRNA knockdown and gene expression microarray analysis to investigate putative functional roles for selected T-UCRs.
Results
Following ATRA-induced differentiation, 32 T-UCRs were differentially expressed (16 up-regulated, 16 down-regulated) across all three cell lines. Further insight into the possible role of T-UC.300A, an independent transcript whose expression is down-regulated following ATRA was achieved by siRNA knockdown, resulting in the decreased viability and invasiveness of ATRA-responsive cell lines. Gene expression microarray analysis following knockdown of T-UC.300A revealed a number of genes whose expression was altered by changing T-UC.300A levels and that might play a role in the increased proliferation and invasion of NB cells prior to ATRA-treatment.
Conclusions
Our results indicate that significant numbers of T-UCRs have altered expression levels in response to ATRA. While the precise roles that T-UCRs might play in cancer or in normal development are largely unknown and an important area for future study, our findings strongly indicate that the function of non-coding RNA T-UC.300A is connected with proliferation, invasion and the inhibition of differentiation of neuroblastoma cell lines prior to ATRA treatment.
doi:10.1186/1471-2407-13-184
PMCID: PMC3626850  PMID: 23565812
ATRA; neuroblastoma; Transcribed ultra-conserved regions; Differentiation
10.  MicroRNA-497 increases apoptosis in MYCN amplified neuroblastoma cells by targeting the key cell cycle regulator WEE1 
Molecular Cancer  2013;12:23.
Background
Neuroblastoma is responsible for 15% of all childhood cancer deaths. Despite advances in treatment and disease management, the overall 5-year survival rates remain poor in high-risk disease (25-40%). MiR-497 was previously identified by our laboratory as a member of a miRNA expression signature, predictive of neuroblastoma patient survival and has been reported as a tumor suppressor in a variety of other cancers. WEE1, a tyrosine kinase regulator of the cell cycle and predicted target of miR-497, has emerged as an oncogene in several cancer types and therefore represents an attractive potential target for novel therapy approaches in high-risk neuroblastoma. Our aim was to investigate the potential tumor suppressive role of miR-497 in high-risk neuroblastoma.
Methods
Expression levels of miR-497 and WEE1 in tissues and cells were determined using RT-PCR. The effect of miR-497 and siWEE1 on cell viability was evaluated using MTS assays, apoptosis levels were determined using FACS analysis of Annexin V/PI stained cells, and target protein expression was determined using western blot. Luciferase reporter plasmids were constructed to confirm direct targeting. Results were reported as mean±S.E.M and differences were tested for significance using 2-tailed Students t-test.
Results
We determined that miR-497 expression was significantly lower in high-risk MYCN amplified (MNA) tumors and that low miR-497 expression was associated with worse EFS and OS in our cohort. Over-expression of miR-497 reduced cell viability and increased apoptosis in MNA cells. We identified WEE1 as a novel target for miR-497 in neuroblastoma. Furthermore, our analysis showed that high WEE1 levels are significantly associated with poor EFS and OS in neuroblastoma and that siRNA knockdown of WEE1 in MNA cell lines results in significant levels of apoptosis, supporting an oncogenic role of WEE1 in neuroblastoma. Cisplatin (CDDP) treatment of both miR-497 over-expressing cells and WEE1 inhibited cells, resulted in a significant increase in apoptosis in MNA cells, describing a synergistic effect and therefore a potential therapeutic for high-risk neuroblastoma.
Conclusion
Our study’s results are consistent with miR-497 being a candidate tumor suppressor in neuroblastoma, through the direct targeting of WEE1. These findings re-enforce the proposal of WEE1 as a therapeutic target in neuroblastoma.
doi:10.1186/1476-4598-12-23
PMCID: PMC3626575  PMID: 23531080
miR-497; Neuroblastoma; WEE1; Tumor suppressor; Cisplatin
11.  Silencing microRNA-134 produces neuroprotective and prolonged seizure-suppressive effects 
Nature medicine  2012;18(7):1087-1094.
Temporal lobe epilepsy is a common, chronic neurologic disorder characterized by recurrent spontaneous seizures. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small, non-coding RNAs that regulate post-transcriptional expression of protein-coding mRNAs, which may have important roles in the pathogenesis of neurologic disorders. In models of prolonged, injurious seizures (status epilepticus) and in experimental and human epilepsy, we found up-regulation of miR-134, a brain-specific, activity-regulated miRNA implicated in the control of dendritic spine morphology. Silencing of miR-134 expression in vivo using antagomirs reduced hippocampal CA3 pyramidal neuron dendrite spine density by 21%, and rendered mice refractory to seizures and hippocampal injury caused by status epilepticus. Depletion of miR-134 after status epilepticus reduced the later occurrence of spontaneous seizures by over 90% and mitigated attendant pathologic features of temporal lobe epilepsy. Thus, silencing miR-134 exerts prolonged seizure suppressant and neuroprotective actions; whether these represent anticonvulsant or truly antiepileptogenic effects requires additional experimentation.
doi:10.1038/nm.2834
PMCID: PMC3438344  PMID: 22683779
Dicer; Epileptogenesis; Hippocampal sclerosis; Synaptogenesis; Temporal lobe epilepsy
12.  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
13.  MicroRNA and DNA Methylation Alterations Mediating Retinoic Acid Induced Neuroblastoma Cell Differentiation 
Seminars in cancer biology  2011;21(4):283-290.
Many neuroblastoma cell lines can be induced to differentiate into a mature neuronal cell type with retinoic acid and other compounds, providing an important model system for elucidating signalling pathways involved in this highly complex process. Recently, it has become apparent that miRNAs, which act as regulators of gene expression at a post-transcriptional level, are differentially expressed in differentiating cells and play important roles governing many aspects of this process. This includes the down-regulation of DNA methytransferases that cause the de-methylation and transcriptional activation of numerous protein coding gene sequences. The purpose of this article is to review involvement of miRNAs and DNA methylation alterations in the process of neuroblastoma cell differentiation. A thorough understanding of miRNA and genetic pathways regulating neuroblastoma cell differentiation potentially could lead to targeted therapies for this disease.
doi:10.1016/j.semcancer.2011.07.001
PMCID: PMC3206983  PMID: 21771658
ATRA; MYCN; neuroblastoma; microRNA; NCOR2; differentiation; NOS1; DNA methylation
14.  Inhibition of Neuroblastoma Tumor Growth by Targeted Delivery of MicroRNA-34a Using Anti-Disialoganglioside GD2 Coated Nanoparticles 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e38129.
Background
Neuroblastoma is one of the most challenging malignancies of childhood, being associated with the highest death rate in paediatric oncology, underlining the need for novel therapeutic approaches. Typically, patients with high risk disease undergo an initial remission in response to treatment, followed by disease recurrence that has become refractory to further treatment. Here, we demonstrate the first silica nanoparticle-based targeted delivery of a tumor suppressive, pro-apoptotic microRNA, miR-34a, to neuroblastoma tumors in a murine orthotopic xenograft model. These tumors express high levels of the cell surface antigen disialoganglioside GD2 (GD2), providing a target for tumor-specific delivery.
Principal Findings
Nanoparticles encapsulating miR-34a and conjugated to a GD2 antibody facilitated tumor-specific delivery following systemic administration into tumor bearing mice, resulted in significantly decreased tumor growth, increased apoptosis and a reduction in vascularisation. We further demonstrate a novel, multi-step molecular mechanism by which miR-34a leads to increased levels of the tissue inhibitor metallopeptidase 2 precursor (TIMP2) protein, accounting for the highly reduced vascularisation noted in miR-34a-treated tumors.
Significance
These novel findings highlight the potential of anti-GD2-nanoparticle-mediated targeted delivery of miR-34a for both the treatment of GD2-expressing tumors, and as a basic discovery tool for elucidating biological effects of novel miRNAs on tumor growth.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0038129
PMCID: PMC3360657  PMID: 22662276
15.  Reduced Mature MicroRNA Levels in Association with Dicer Loss in Human Temporal Lobe Epilepsy with Hippocampal Sclerosis 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e35921.
Hippocampal sclerosis (HS) is a common pathological finding in patients with temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE) and is associated with altered expression of genes controlling neuronal excitability, glial function, neuroinflammation and cell death. MicroRNAs (miRNAs), a class of small non-coding RNAs, function as post-transcriptional regulators of gene expression and are critical for normal brain development and function. Production of mature miRNAs requires Dicer, an RNAase III, loss of which has been shown to cause neuronal and glial dysfunction, seizures, and neurodegeneration. Here we investigated miRNA biogenesis in hippocampal and neocortical resection specimens from pharmacoresistant TLE patients and autopsy controls. Western blot analysis revealed protein levels of Dicer were significantly lower in certain TLE patients with HS. Dicer levels were also reduced in the hippocampus of mice subject to experimentally-induced epilepsy. To determine if Dicer loss was associated with altered miRNA processing, we profiled levels of 380 mature miRNAs in control and TLE-HS samples. Expression of nearly 200 miRNAs was detected in control human hippocampus. In TLE-HS samples there was a large-scale reduction of miRNA expression, with 51% expressed at lower levels and a further 24% not detectable. Primary transcript (pri-miRNAs) expression levels for several tested miRNAs were not different between control and TLE-HS samples. These findings suggest loss of Dicer and failure of mature miRNA expression may be a feature of the pathophysiology of HS in patients with TLE.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0035921
PMCID: PMC3352899  PMID: 22615744
16.  MicroRNA-542-5p as a Novel Tumor Suppressor in Neuroblastoma 
Cancer letters  2011;303(1):56-64.
Several studies have implicated the dysregulation of microRNAs in neuroblastoma pathogenesis, an often fatal paediatric cancer arising from precursor cells of the sympathetic nervous system. Our group and others have demonstrated that lower expression of miR-542-5p is highly associated with poor patient survival, indicating a potential tumor suppressive function. Here, we demonstrate that ectopic over-expression of this miRNA decreases the invasive potential of neuroblastoma cell lines in vitro, along with primary tumor growth and metastases in an orthotopic mouse xenograft model, providing the first functional evidence for the involvement of miR-542-5p as a tumor suppressor in any type of cancer.
doi:10.1016/j.canlet.2011.01.016
PMCID: PMC3057396  PMID: 21310526
MicroRNAs; neuroblastoma; miR-542-5p; orthotopic mouse model
17.  Protein tyrosine phosphatase receptor delta acts as a neuroblastoma tumor suppressor by destabilizing the aurora kinase a oncogene 
Molecular Cancer  2012;11:6.
Background
Protein tyrosine phosphatase receptor delta (PTPRD) is a member of a large family of protein tyrosine phosphatases which negatively regulate tyrosine phosphorylation. Neuroblastoma is a major childhood cancer arising from precursor cells of the sympathetic nervous system which is known to acquire deletions and alterations in the expression patterns of PTPRD, indicating a potential tumor suppressor function for this gene. The molecular mechanism, however, by which PTPRD renders a tumor suppressor effect in neuroblastoma is unknown.
Results
As a molecular mechanism, we demonstrate that PTPRD interacts with aurora kinase A (AURKA), an oncogenic protein that is over-expressed in multiple forms of cancer, including neuroblastoma. Ectopic up-regulation of PTPRD in neuroblastoma dephosphorylates tyrosine residues in AURKA resulting in a destabilization of this protein culminating in interfering with one of AURKA's primary functions in neuroblastoma, the stabilization of MYCN protein, the gene of which is amplified in approximately 25 to 30% of high risk neuroblastoma.
Conclusions
PTPRD has a tumor suppressor function in neuroblastoma through AURKA dephosphorylation and destabilization and a downstream destabilization of MYCN protein, representing a novel mechanism for the function of PTPRD in neuroblastoma.
doi:10.1186/1476-4598-11-6
PMCID: PMC3395855  PMID: 22305495
PTPRD; AURKA; MYCN; Neuroblastoma; Tumor suppressor
18.  Co-Localization of the Oncogenic Transcription Factor MYCN and the DNA Methyl Binding Protein MeCP2 at Genomic Sites in Neuroblastoma 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(6):e21436.
Background
MYCN is a transcription factor that is expressed during the development of the neural crest and its dysregulation plays a major role in the pathogenesis of pediatric cancers such as neuroblastoma, medulloblastoma and rhabdomyosarcoma. MeCP2 is a CpG methyl binding protein which has been associated with a number of cancers and developmental disorders, particularly Rett syndrome.
Methods and Findings
Using an integrative global genomics approach involving chromatin immunoprecipitation applied to microarrays, we have determined that MYCN and MeCP2 co-localize to gene promoter regions, as well as inter/intragenic sites, within the neuroblastoma genome (MYCN amplified Kelly cells) at high frequency (70.2% of MYCN sites were also positive for MeCP2). Intriguingly, the frequency of co-localization was significantly less at promoter regions exhibiting substantial hypermethylation (8.7%), as determined by methylated DNA immunoprecipitation (MeDIP) applied to the same microarrays. Co-immunoprecipitation of MYCN using an anti-MeCP2 antibody indicated that a MYCN/MeCP2 interaction occurs at protein level. mRNA expression profiling revealed that the median expression of genes with promoters bound by MYCN was significantly higher than for genes bound by MeCP2, and that genes bound by both proteins had intermediate expression. Pathway analysis was carried out for genes bound by MYCN, MeCP2 or MYCN/MeCP2, revealing higher order functions.
Conclusions
Our results indicate that MYCN and MeCP2 protein interact and co-localize to similar genomic sites at very high frequency, and that the patterns of binding of these proteins can be associated with significant differences in transcriptional activity. Although it is not yet known if this interaction contributes to neuroblastoma disease pathogenesis, it is intriguing that the interaction occurs at the promoter regions of several genes important for the development of neuroblastoma, including ALK, AURKA and BDNF.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0021436
PMCID: PMC3120883  PMID: 21731748
19.  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
20.  MicroRNA-34a is a potent tumor suppressor molecule in vivo in neuroblastoma 
BMC Cancer  2011;11:33.
Background
Neuroblastoma is a paediatric cancer which originates from precursor cells of the sympathetic nervous system and accounts for 15% of childhood cancer mortalities. With regards to the role of miRNAs in neuroblastoma, miR-34a, mapping to a chromosome 1p36 region that is commonly deleted, has been found to act as a tumor suppressor through targeting of numerous genes associated with cell proliferation and apoptosis.
Methods
A synthetic miR-34a (or negative control) precursor molecule was transfected into NB1691luc and SK-N-ASluc neuroblastoma cells. Quantitative PCR was used to verify increased miR-34a levels in NB1691luc and SK-N-ASluc cell lines prior to in vitro and in vivo analysis. In vitro analysis of the effects of miR-34a over expression on cell growth, cell cycle and phosphoprotein activation in signal transduction pathways was performed. Neuroblastoma cells over expressing miR-34a were injected retroperitoneally into immunocompromised CB17-SCID mice and tumor burden was assessed over a 21 day period by measuring bioluminescence (photons/sec/cm2).
Results
Over expression of miR-34a in both NB1691luc and SK-N-ASluc neuroblastoma cell lines led to a significant decrease in cell number relative to premiR-negative control treated cells over a 72 hour period. Flow cytometry results indicated that miR-34a induced cell cycle arrest and subsequent apoptosis activation. Phosphoprotein analysis highlighted key elements involved in signal transduction, whose activation was dysregulated as a result of miR-34a introduction into cells. As a potential mechanism of miR-34a action on phosphoprotein levels, we demonstrate that miR-34a over-expression results in a significant reduction of MAP3K9 mRNA and protein levels. Although MAP3K9 is a predicted target of miR-34a, direct targeting could not be validated with luciferase reporter assays. Despite this fact, any functional effects of reduced MAP3K9 expression as a result of miR-34a would be expected to be similar regardless of the mechanism involved. Most notably, in vivo studies showed that tumor growth was significantly repressed after exogenous miR-34a administration in retroperitoneal neuroblastoma tumors.
Conclusion
We demonstrate for the first time that miR-34a significantly reduces tumor growth in an in vivo orthotopic murine model of neuroblastoma and identified novel effects that miR-34a has on phospho-activation of key proteins involved with apoptosis.
doi:10.1186/1471-2407-11-33
PMCID: PMC3038978  PMID: 21266077
21.  MicroRNA Involvement in the Pathogenesis of Neuroblastoma: Potential for MicroRNA Mediated Therapeutics 
Current pharmaceutical design  2009;15(4):456-462.
Neuroblastoma arises from precursor cells of the sympathetic nervous system and presently accounts for 15% of all childhood cancer deaths. These tumors display remarkable heterogeneity in clinical behavior, ranging from spontaneous regression to rapid progression and resistance to therapy. The clinical behavior of these tumors is associated with many factors, including patient age, histopathology and genetic abnormalities such as MYCN amplification. More recently, the dysregulation of some miRNAs, including the miR-17-5p-92 cluster and miR-34a, has been implicated in the pathobiology of neuroblastoma. MiR-17-5p-92 family members act in an oncogenic manner while miR-34a has tumor suppressor functions. The evidence for the contribution of miRNAs in the aggressive neuroblastoma phenotype is reviewed in this article, along with exciting possibilities for miRNA mediated therapeutics.
PMCID: PMC2945477  PMID: 19199973
MicroRNA; Neuroblastoma; MYCN; Chromosomal Imbalance
22.  MicroRNA-184 inhibits neuroblastoma cell survival through targeting the serine/threonine kinase AKT2 
Molecular Cancer  2010;9:83.
Background
Neuroblastoma is a paediatric cancer of the sympathetic nervous system. The single most important genetic indicator of poor clinical outcome is amplification of the MYCN transcription factor. One of many down-stream MYCN targets is miR-184, which is either directly or indirectly repressed by this transcription factor, possibly due to its pro-apoptotic effects when ectopically over-expressed in neuroblastoma cells. The purpose of this study was to elucidate the molecular mechanism by which miR-184 conveys pro-apoptotic effects.
Results
We demonstrate that the knock-down of endogenous miR-184 has the opposite effect of ectopic up-regulation, leading to enhanced neuroblastoma cell numbers. As a mechanism of how miR-184 causes apoptosis when over-expressed, and increased cell numbers when inhibited, we demonstrate direct targeting and degradation of AKT2, a major downstream effector of the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) pathway, one of the most potent pro-survival pathways in cancer. The pro-apoptotic effects of miR-184 ectopic over-expression in neuroblastoma cell lines is reproduced by siRNA inhibition of AKT2, while a positive effect on cell numbers similar to that obtained by the knock-down of endogenous miR-184 can be achieved by ectopic up-regulation of AKT2. Moreover, co-transfection of miR-184 with an AKT2 expression vector lacking the miR-184 target site in the 3'UTR rescues cells from the pro-apoptotic effects of miR-184.
Conclusions
MYCN contributes to tumorigenesis, in part, by repressing miR-184, leading to increased levels of AKT2, a direct target of miR-184. Thus, two important genes with positive effects on cell growth and survival, MYCN and AKT2, can be linked into a common genetic pathway through the actions of miR-184. As an inhibitor of AKT2, miR-184 could be of potential benefit in miRNA mediated therapeutics of MYCN amplified neuroblastoma and other forms of cancer.
doi:10.1186/1476-4598-9-83
PMCID: PMC2864218  PMID: 20409325
23.  Recurrent genomic imbalances in primary effusion lymphomas 
Cancer genetics and cytogenetics  2006;171(2):119-121.
Primary effusion lymphomas (PEL) form a subset of AIDS-related lymphomas and usually have a poor prognosis. Although Kaposi’s sarcoma–associated herpes virus (KSHV) is often associated with PEL, very little is known about the exact mechanisms or causative effects of these associations. We investigated the chromosomal imbalances in six KSHV-positive PEL cell lines using comparative genomic hybridization analysis. We defined the shortest regions of overlaps for genomic gains on six chromosomes: 1q31, 4q31~q33, 7q10~q21, 8q21.1, 12q0~q23, and Xp11~q21. The recurrent nature of the gains found in these chromosomal regions suggests that these imbalances play roles in the pathogenesis of PEL.
doi:10.1016/j.cancergencyto.2006.07.003
PMCID: PMC2799290  PMID: 17116491
24.  Global MYCN Transcription Factor Binding Analysis in Neuroblastoma Reveals Association with Distinct E-Box Motifs and Regions of DNA Hypermethylation 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(12):e8154.
Background
Neuroblastoma, a cancer derived from precursor cells of the sympathetic nervous system, is a major cause of childhood cancer related deaths. The single most important prognostic indicator of poor clinical outcome in this disease is genomic amplification of MYCN, a member of a family of oncogenic transcription factors.
Methodology
We applied MYCN chromatin immunoprecipitation to microarrays (ChIP-chip) using MYCN amplified/non-amplified cell lines as well as a conditional knockdown cell line to determine the distribution of MYCN binding sites within all annotated promoter regions.
Conclusion
Assessment of E-box usage within consistently positive MYCN binding sites revealed a predominance for the CATGTG motif (p<0.0016), with significant enrichment of additional motifs CATTTG, CATCTG, CAACTG in the MYCN amplified state. For cell lines over-expressing MYCN, gene ontology analysis revealed enrichment for the binding of MYCN at promoter regions of numerous molecular functional groups including DNA helicases and mRNA transcriptional regulation. In order to evaluate MYCN binding with respect to other genomic features, we determined the methylation status of all annotated CpG islands and promoter sequences using methylated DNA immunoprecipitation (MeDIP). The integration of MYCN ChIP-chip and MeDIP data revealed a highly significant positive correlation between MYCN binding and DNA hypermethylation. This association was also detected in regions of hemizygous loss, indicating that the observed association occurs on the same homologue. In summary, these findings suggest that MYCN binding occurs more commonly at CATGTG as opposed to the classic CACGTG E-box motif, and that disease associated over expression of MYCN leads to aberrant binding to additional weaker affinity E-box motifs in neuroblastoma. The co-localization of MYCN binding and DNA hypermethylation further supports the dual role of MYCN, namely that of a classical transcription factor affecting the activity of individual genes, and that of a mediator of global chromatin structure.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0008154
PMCID: PMC2781550  PMID: 19997598
25.  Widespread Dysregulation of MiRNAs by MYCN Amplification and Chromosomal Imbalances in Neuroblastoma: Association of miRNA Expression with Survival 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(11):e7850.
MiRNAs regulate gene expression at a post-transcriptional level and their dysregulation can play major roles in the pathogenesis of many different forms of cancer, including neuroblastoma, an often fatal paediatric cancer originating from precursor cells of the sympathetic nervous system. We have analyzed a set of neuroblastoma (n = 145) that is broadly representative of the genetic subtypes of this disease for miRNA expression (430 loci by stem-loop RT qPCR) and for DNA copy number alterations (array CGH) to assess miRNA involvement in disease pathogenesis. The tumors were stratified and then randomly split into a training set (n = 96) and a validation set (n = 49) for data analysis. Thirty-seven miRNAs were significantly over- or under-expressed in MYCN amplified tumors relative to MYCN single copy tumors, indicating a potential role for the MYCN transcription factor in either the direct or indirect dysregulation of these loci. In addition, we also determined that there was a highly significant correlation between miRNA expression levels and DNA copy number, indicating a role for large-scale genomic imbalances in the dysregulation of miRNA expression. In order to directly assess whether miRNA expression was predictive of clinical outcome, we used the Random Forest classifier to identify miRNAs that were most significantly associated with poor overall patient survival and developed a 15 miRNA signature that was predictive of overall survival with 72.7% sensitivity and 86.5% specificity in the validation set of tumors. We conclude that there is widespread dysregulation of miRNA expression in neuroblastoma tumors caused by both over-expression of the MYCN transcription factor and by large-scale chromosomal imbalances. MiRNA expression patterns are also predicative of clinical outcome, highlighting the potential for miRNA mediated diagnostics and therapeutics.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0007850
PMCID: PMC2773120  PMID: 19924232

Results 1-25 (27)