Next generation sequencing is widely used to study complex diseases because of its ability to identify both common and rare variants without prior single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) information. Pooled sequencing of implicated target regions can lower costs and allow more samples to be analyzed, thus improving statistical power for disease-associated variant detection. Several methods for disease association tests of pooled data and for optimal pooling designs have been developed under certain assumptions of the pooling process, e.g. equal/unequal contributions to the pool, sequencing depth variation, and error rate. However, these simplified assumptions may not portray the many factors affecting pooled sequencing data quality, such as PCR amplification during target capture and sequencing, reference allele preferential bias, and others. As a result, the properties of the observed data may differ substantially from those expected under the simplified assumptions. Here, we use real datasets from targeted sequencing of pooled samples, together with microarray SNP genotypes of the same subjects, to identify and quantify factors (biases and errors) affecting the observed sequencing data. Through simulations, we find that these factors have a significant impact on the accuracy of allele frequency estimation and the power of association tests. Furthermore, we develop a workflow protocol to incorporate these factors in data analysis to reduce the potential biases and errors in pooled sequencing data and to gain better estimation of allele frequencies. The workflow, Psafe, is available at http://bioinformatics.med.yale.edu/group/.
pooled sequencing; allele frequency estimation; next-generation sequencing; disease association tests
It has long been established that cancers can become addicted to particular oncogenes. Despite the genetic complexity that governs tumorigenesis, certain cancers can exhibit a critical dependency on the expression of a single oncogene, which when removed leads to death of the cancer cell. Recent observations on the relationships between regulatory RNAs and cancer have revealed that this concept of oncogene addiction extends to microRNAs (miRNAs) as well. Certain cancers exhibit a dependency on the expression of a single oncogenic miRNA, or oncomiR. The field of miRNA biology and its involvement in diseases such as cancer has seen tremendous advances over the past decade. However, little is known about the phenomenon of oncomiR addiction. In this review, we introduce the concept of proto-oncomiRs, or miRNAs that gain oncogenic activity after an initiating event. Further, by highlighting the role of proto-oncomiRs in generating malignant phenotypes, we glean possible insights into the mechanisms that guide oncomiR addiction. Additionally, toward the realization of genetically-driven personalized medicine, some of the most clinically successful anticancer strategies have involved targeting addictive oncogenes such as HER2, BCR/ABL, EGFR, and VEGF. Elucidating how addictive miRNAs can perpetuate cancer may reveal additional critical molecular targets to exploit for therapeutic purposes. Therefore, in this review, we also summarize the field of anti-miRNA therapeutics, in which antisense and nanoscale delivery technologies are the driving force. Addictive oncomiRs are a double-edged sword; addicted cancers are dependent on oncomiRs that are highly potent therapeutic targets. Dissection of this phenomenon may reveal the mechanisms through which lynchpin miRNAs can perpetuate cancer and present a new paradigm for miRNA-based cancer therapy.
oncomiR addiction; oncogene; microRNA; proto-oncomiR; tumorigenesis; oncogenesis; cell circuitry; anticancer therapy; anti-miR; molecular targeting
Comment on: Cirera-Salinas D, et al. Cell Cycle 2012; 11:922–33
Dysregulation of microRNAs (miRNAs), particularly their downregulation, has been widely shown to be associated with the development of lung cancer. Downregulation of miRNAs leads to the overactivation of their oncogene targets, while upregulation of some miRNAs leads to inhibition of important tumor suppressors. Research has implicated cigarette smoke in miRNA dysregulation, leading to carcinogenesis. Cigarette smoke may lead to genetic or epigenetic damage to miRNAs, many of which map to fragile sites and some of which contain single nucleotide polymorphisms. Cigarette smoke may also cause dysregulation by affecting regulatory mechanisms controlling miRNA expression. Researchers have shown a correlation between smoke-exposure-induced dysregulation of miRNAs and age. Furthermore, dysregulation seems to be associated with intensity and duration of smoke exposure and duration of cessation. Longer exposure at a threshold level is needed for irreversibility of changes in expression. Better understanding of miRNA dysregulation may allow for improved biomonitoring and treatment regimens for lung cancer.
It has long been understood that many of the same manipulations that increase longevity in Caenorhabditis elegans also increase resistance to various acute stressors, and vice-versa; moreover these findings hold in more complex organisms as well. Nevertheless, the mechanistic relationship between these phenotypes remains unclear, and in many cases the overlap between stress resistance and longevity is inexact. Here we review the known connections between stress resistance and longevity, discuss instances in which these connections are absent, and summarize the theoretical explanations that have been posited for these phenomena.
Maintenance of normal endothelial function is critical to various aspects of blood vessel function but its regulation is poorly understood. In this study we show that disruption of baseline FGF signaling to the endothelium leads to a dramatic reduction in let-7 miRNA levels that in turns increases expression of TGFβ ligands and receptors and activation of TGFβ signaling leading to endothelial-to-mesenchymal transition (Endo-MT). We further find that Endo-MT is an important driver of neointima formation in a murine transplant arteriopathy model and in rejecting human transplants lesions. The decline in endothelial FGF signaling input is due to the appearance of an FGF resistance state that is characterized by inflammation-dependent reduction in expression and activation of key components of the FGF signaling cascade. These results establish FGF signaling as a critical factor in maintenance of endothelial homeostasis and point to an unexpected role of Endo-MT in vascular pathology.
MicroRNA (miRNA) are aiding our understanding of cancer biology, and are now coming close to therapeutic use as well. Here, we focus specifically on the interaction between miRNAs and genomic instability. .MiRNA regulation is essential to many cellular processes, and escape from this regulatory network seems to be a common characteristic of malignant transformation. Genomic instability may preferentially target miRNAs either because of selective pressure or because of inherent vulnerability related to their location near fragile sites. Furthermore, disruption of miRNA processing elements affords a more global release from miRNA regulation. Finally, we review how miRNAs function as both effectors and modulators of the DNA damage response, intricately weaved with traditional elements such as ATM, P53 and MMR. Thus, miRNAs are both an important substrate for genomic instability, as well as having a crucial role in cellular DNA sensing and repair mechanisms.
miR-155 is a prominent microRNA (miRNA) that regulates genes involved in immunity and cancer-related pathways. miR-155 is overexpressed in lung cancer, which correlates with poor patient prognosis. It is unclear how miR-155 becomes increased in lung cancers and how this increase contributes to reduced patient survival. Here, we show that hypoxic conditions induce miR-155 expression in lung cancer cells and trigger a corresponding decrease in a validated target, FOXO3A. Furthermore, we find that increased levels of miR-155 radioprotects lung cancer cells, while inhibition of miR-155 radiosensitizes these cells. Moreover, we reveal a therapeutically important link between miR-155 expression, hypoxia, and irradiation by demonstrating that anti-miR-155 molecules also sensitize hypoxic lung cancer cells to irradiation. Our study helps explain how miR-155 becomes elevated in lung cancers, which contain extensive hypoxic microenvironments, and demonstrates that inhibition of miR-155 may have important therapeutic potential as a means to radiosensitize hypoxic lung cancer cells.
microRNAs; miR-155; hypoxia; radiosensitizer; lung cancer
In the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, the let-7 microRNA (miRNA) controls the timing of key developmental events and terminal differentiation in part by directly regulating lin-41. C. elegans lin-41 mutants display precocious cell cycle exit and terminal differentiation of epidermal skin cells. lin-41 orthologues are found in more complex organisms including both mice and humans, but their roles are not known. We generated Mlin41 mouse mutants to ascertain a functional role for Mlin41. Strong loss of function Mlin41 gene-trap mutants demonstrated a striking neural tube closure defect during development, and embryonic lethality. Like C. elegans lin-41, Mlin41 also appears to be regulated by the let-7 and mir-125 miRNAs. Since Mlin41 is required for neural tube closure and survival it points to human lin-41 (HLIN41/TRIM71) as a potential human development and disease gene.
microRNA; let-7; mir-125; mlin41; lin-41; mouse; knock-out; development; cell cycle
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are noncoding RNAs that regulate numerous target genes through a posttranscriptional mechanism and thus control major developmental pathways. The phylogenetically conserved let-7 miRNA regulates cell proliferation and differentiation, thus functioning as a key regulator of developmental timing in C. elegans and a tumor suppressor gene in humans. Using a reverse genetic screen, we have identified genetic interaction partners of C. elegans let-7, including known and novel potential target genes. Initial identification of several translation initiation factors as suppressors of a let-7 mutation led us to systematically examine genetic interaction between let-7 and the translational machinery, which we found to be widespread. In the presence of wild-type let-7, depletion of the translation initiation factor eIF3 resulted in precocious cell differentiation, suggesting that developmental timing is translationally regulated, possibly by let-7. As overexpression of eIF3 in humans promotes translation of mRNAs that are also targets of let-7-mediated repression, we suggest that eIF3 may directly or indirectly oppose let-7 activity. This might provide an explanation for the opposite functions of let-7 and eIF3 in regulating tumorigenesis.
miRNA; let-7; translation factor; heterochronic; C. elegans; RNAi; eIF3; eIF6
The in vivo mechanisms that coordinate the timing of axon growth and guidance are not well understood. In the C. elegans hermaphrodite specific neurons, the lin-4 microRNA controls the stage of axon initiation independent of the UNC-40 and SAX-3 ventral guidance receptors. lin-4 loss-of-function mutants exhibit marked delays in axon outgrowth, while lin-4 overexpression, leads to precocious growth in the L3. Here we show that loss of the POU transcription factor UNC-86 not only results in penetrant ventral axon growth defects in the HSNs, but also causes processes to extend in the L1, three stages earlier than wild-type. This temporal shift is not dependent on UNC-40 or SAX-3, and does not require the presence of lin-4. We propose that unc-86(lf) HSN axons are misguided due to the temporal decoupling of axon initiation and ventral guidance responses.
timing; axon growth; axon guidance; UNC-86; Brn3; DCC; UNC-40
Melanoma is an aggressive cancer that is highly resistance to therapies once metastasized. We studied microRNA (miRNA) expression in clinical melanoma subtypes and evaluated different miRNA signatures in the background of gain of function somatic and inherited mutations associated with melanoma. Total RNA from 42 patient derived primary melanoma cell lines and three independent normal primary melanocyte cell cultures was evaluated by miRNA array. MiRNA expression was then analyzed comparing subtypes and additional clinicopathologic criteria including somatic mutations. The prevalence and association of an inherited variant in a miRNA binding site in the 3′UTR of the KRAS oncogene, referred to as the KRAS-variant, was also evaluated. We show that seven miRNAs, miR-142-3p, miR-486, miR-214, miR-218, miR-362, miR-650 and miR-31, were significantly correlated with acral as compared to non-acral melanomas (p < 0.04). In addition, we discovered that the KRAS-variant was enriched in non-acral melanoma (25%), and that miR-137 under expression was significantly associated with melanomas with the KRAS-variant. Our findings indicate that miRNAs are differentially expressed in melanoma subtypes and that their misregulation can be impacted by inherited gene variants, supporting the hypothesis that miRNA misregulation reflects biological differences in melanoma.
melanoma; microRNA profiling; biomarker; acral; KRAS-variant; SNP
Cancer is a complex and dynamic disease, involving a variety of changes in gene expression and structure. Traditionally, the study of cancer has focused on protein-coding genes, considering these as the principal effectors and regulators of tumorigenesis. Recent advances, however, have brought non-protein-coding RNA into the spotlight. MicroRNAs (miRNAs), one such class of non-coding RNAs, have been implicated in the regulation of cell growth, differentiation, and apoptosis . While their study is still at an early stage, and their mechanism of action along with their importance in cancer is not yet fully understood, they may provide an important layer of genetic regulation in tumorigenesis, and ultimately become valuable therapeutic tools.
Genetic markers identifying women at an increased risk of developing breast cancer exist, yet the majority of inherited risk remains elusive. While numerous BRCA1 coding sequence mutations are associated with breast cancer risk, BRCA1 mutations account for less then 5% of breast cancer risk. Since 3′ untranslated region (3′UTR) polymorphisms disrupting microRNA (miRNA) binding can be functional and can act as genetic markers of cancer risk, we tested the hypothesis that such polymorphisms in the 3′UTR of BRCA1 and haplotypes containing these functional polymorphisms may be associated with breast cancer risk. We sequenced the BRCA1 3′UTR from breast cancer patients to identify miRNA disrupting polymorphisms. We further evaluated haplotypes of this region including the identified 3′UTR variants in a large population of controls and breast cancer patients (n = 221) with known breast cancer subtypes and ethnicities. We identified three 3′UTR variants in BRCA1 that are polymorphic in breast cancer populations, and haplotype analysis including these variants revealed that breast cancer patients harbor five rare haplotypes not generally found among controls (9.50% for breast cancer chromosomes, 0.11% for control chromosomes, p = 0.0001). Three of these rare haplotypes contain the rs8176318 BRCA1 3′UTR functional variant. These haplotypes are not biomarkers for BRCA1 coding mutations, as they are found rarely in BRCA1 mutant breast cancer patients (1/129 patients = 0.78%). These rare BRCA1 haplotypes and 3′UTR SNPs may represent new genetic markers of breast cancer risk.
BRCA1; haplotype; microRNA; SNP; 3′UTR; breast cancer; triple negative breast cancer
Aging is under genetic control in C. elegans but the mechanisms of lifespan regulation are not completely known. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) regulate various aspects of development and metabolism and one miRNA has been previously implicated in lifespan.
Here we show that multiple miRNAs change expression in C. elegans aging, including novel miRNAs, and that mutations in several of the most up-regulated miRNAs lead to lifespan defects. Some act to promote normal lifespan and stress resistance while others inhibit these phenomena. We find that these miRNAs genetically interact with genes in the DNA damage checkpoint response pathway and in the insulin signaling pathway.
Our findings reveal that miRNAs both positively and negatively influence lifespan. Since several miRNAs up-regulated during aging regulate genes in conserved pathways of aging and thereby influence lifespan in C. elegans, we propose that miRNAs may play important roles in stress response and aging of more complex organisms.
microRNAs; longevity; lifespan; aging; stress; C. elegans
Casein Kinase I (CKI) is a conserved component of the Wnt signaling pathway that regulates cell fate determination in metazoans. We show that post-embryonic asymmetric division and fate specification of C. elegans epidermal stem cells are controlled by a non-canonical Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway, involving the β-catenins WRM-1 and SYS-1, and that C. elegans kin-19/CKIα functions in this pathway. Furthermore, we find that kin-19 is the only member of the Wnt asymmetry pathway that functions with, or in parallel to, the heterochronic temporal patterning pathway to control withdrawal from self-renewal and subsequent terminal differentiation of epidermal stem cells. We show that, except in the case of kin-19, the Wnt asymmetry pathway and the heterochronic pathway function separately and in parallel to control different aspects of epidermal stem cell fate specification. However, given the function of kin-19/CKIα in both pathways, and that CKI, Wnt signaling pathway and heterochronic pathway genes are widely conserved in animals, our findings suggest that CKIα may function as a regulatory hub through which asymmetric division and terminal differentiation are coordinated in adult stem cells of vertebrates.
C. elegans; kin-19; casein kinase Ialpha (CKIα); Wnt; stem cell; asymmetric cell division; heterochronic; temporal identity; terminal differentiation; self-renewal
Neither genetic nor environmental factors fully account for variability in individual longevity: genetically identical invertebrates in homogenous environments often experience no less variability in lifespan than outbred human populations. Such variability is often assumed to result from stochasticity in damage accumulation over time; however, the identification of early-life gene expression states that predict future longevity would suggest that lifespan is least in part epigenetically determined. Such “biomarkers of aging,” genetic or otherwise, nevertheless remain rare. In this work, we sought early-life differences in organismal robustness in unperturbed individuals and examined the utility of microRNAs, known regulators of lifespan, development, and robustness, as aging biomarkers. We quantitatively examined Caenorhabditis elegans reared individually in a novel apparatus and observed throughout their lives. Early-to-mid–adulthood measures of homeostatic ability jointly predict 62% of longevity variability. Though correlated, markers of growth/muscle maintenance and of metabolic by-products (“age pigments”) report independently on lifespan, suggesting that graceful aging is not a single process. We further identified three microRNAs in which early-adulthood expression patterns individually predict up to 47% of lifespan differences. Though expression of each increases throughout this time, mir-71 and mir-246 correlate with lifespan, while mir-239 anti-correlates. Two of these three microRNA “biomarkers of aging” act upstream in insulin/IGF-1–like signaling (IIS) and other known longevity pathways, thus we infer that these microRNAs not only report on but also likely determine longevity. Thus, fluctuations in early-life IIS, due to variation in these microRNAs and from other causes, may determine individual lifespan.
Why do some individuals live longer than others? Unexpectedly, genetic differences contribute surprisingly little to lifespan variation in humans. The situation is thrown into relief in studies of C. elegans, in which genetically identical siblings reared in identical environments usually experience different lifespans. In this work, we show that physiological differences between identical animals begin to appear relatively early in life and that markers of ill health in young adulthood presage shorter lifespans. Using fluorescent markers to examine the level of activation of several genes, we found three regulatory microRNA genes that vary in activity between individuals in a manner that predicts future lifespan. Moreover, two of these regulate insulin signaling, which is well known to alter lifespan in diverse species when experimentally manipulated. This indicates that different levels of insulin signaling in otherwise identical individuals may determine differences in lifespan.
Developmental timing in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans is controlled by heterochronic genes, mutations in which cause changes in the relative timing of developmental events. One of the heterochronic genes, let-7, encodes a microRNA that is highly evolutionarily conserved, suggesting that similar genetic pathways control developmental timing across phyla. Here we report that the nuclear receptor nhr-25, which belongs to the evolutionarily conserved fushi tarazu-factor 1/nuclear receptor NR5A subfamily, interacts with heterochronic genes that regulate the larva-to-adult transition in C. elegans. We identified nhr-25 as a regulator of apl-1, a homolog of the Alzheimer’s amyloid precursor protein-like gene that is downstream of let-7 family microRNAs. NHR-25 controls not only apl-1 expression but also regulates developmental progression in the larva-to-adult transition. NHR-25 negatively regulates the expression of the adult-specific collagen gene col-19 in lateral epidermal seam cells. In contrast, NHR-25 positively regulates the larva-to-adult transition for other timed events in seam cells, such as cell fusion, cell division and alae formation. The genetic relationships between nhr-25 and other heterochronic genes are strikingly varied among several adult developmental events. We propose that nhr-25 has multiple roles in both promoting and inhibiting the C. elegans heterochronic gene pathway controlling adult differentiation programs.
apl-1; Caenorhabditis elegans; heterochronic gene; developmental timing; let-7; nuclear receptor; nhr-25
Ovarian cancer is the single most deadly form of women’s cancer, typically presenting as an advanced disease at diagnosis in part due to a lack of known risk factors or genetic markers of risk. The KRAS oncogene and altered levels of the microRNA let-7 are associated with an increased risk of developing solid tumors. In this study, we investigated a hypothesized association between an increased risk of ovarian cancer and a variant allele of KRAS at rs61764370, referred to as the KRAS-variant, that disrupts a let-7 microRNA binding site in this oncogene. Specimens obtained were tested for the presence of the KRAS-variant from non-selected ovarian cancer patients in three independent cohorts, two independent ovarian case-control studies, and ovarian cancer patients with hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndrome (HBOC) as well as in their family members. Our results indicate that the KRAS-variant is associated with greater than 25% of non-selected ovarian cancer cases. Further, we found that it is a marker for a significant increased risk of developing ovarian cancer, as confirmed by two independent case control analyses. Lastly, we determined that the KRAS-variant was present in 61% of HBOC patients without BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations, previously considered uninformative, as well as in their family members with cancer. Our findings strongly support the hypothesis that the KRAS-variant is a genetic marker for increased risk of developing ovarian cancer, and they suggest that the KRAS-variant may be a new genetic marker of cancer risk for HBOC families without other known genetic abnormalities.
The developmental process of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans is famously invariant; however these animals have surprisingly variable lifespans, even in extremely homogenous environments. Inter-individual differences in muscle-function decline, accumulation of lipofuscin in the gut, internal growth of food bacteria, and ability to mobilize heat-shock responses all appear to be predictive of a nematode's remaining lifespan; whether these are causal, or mere correlates of individual decline and death, has yet to be determined. Moreover, few “upstream” causes of inter-individual variability have been identified. It may be the case that variability in lifespan is entirely due to stochastic damage accumulation; alternately, perhaps such variability has a developmental origin and/or genes involved in developmental canalization also act to buffer phenotypic heterogeneity later in life. We review these two hypotheses with an eye toward whether they can be experimentally differentiated.
aging biomarker; longevity; inter-individual variability
The let-7 family of microRNAs (miRNAs) are important regulators of developmental timing and cell differentiation and are often misexpressed in human cancer. In C. elegans, let-7 controls cell fate transitions from larval stage 4 (L4) to adulthood by post-transcriptionally down-regulating lineage-abnormal 41 (lin-41) and hunchback-like 1 (hbl-1). Primary let-7 (pri-let-7) transcripts are up-regulated in the L3, yet little is known about what controls this transcriptional up-regulation. We sought factors that either turn on let-7 transcription or keep it repressed until the correct time. Here we report that one of let-7's targets, the transcription factor Hunchback-like 1 (HBL-1), is responsible for inhibiting the transcription of let-7 in specific tissues until the L3. hbl-1 is a known developmental timing regulator and inhibits adult development in larval stages. Therefore, one important function of HBL-1 in maintaining larval stage fates is inhibition of let-7. Indeed, our results reveal let-7 as the first known target of the HBL-1 transcription factor in C. elegans and suggest a negative feedback loop mechanism for let-7 and HBL-1 regulation.
let-7; hbl-1; hunchback; microRNA; heterochronic; transcription; C. elegans
The let-7 microRNA (miRNA) regulates developmental timing at the larval-to-adult transition in Caenorhabditis elegans. Dysregulation of let-7 results in irregular hypodermal and vulval development. Disrupted let-7 function is also a feature of human lung cancer. However, little is known about the mechanism and co-factors of let-7. Here we demonstrate that ribosomal protein RPS-14 is able to modulate let-7 function in C. elegans. The RPS-14 protein co-immunoprecipitated with the nematode Argonaute homolog, ALG-1. Reduction of rps-14 gene expression by RNAi suppressed the aberrant vulva and hypodermis development phenotypes of let-7(n2853) mutant animals and the mis-regulation of a reporter bearing the lin-41 3′UTR, a well established let-7 target. Our results indicate an interactive relationship between let-7 miRNA function and ribosomal protein RPS-14 in regulation of terminal differentiation that may help in understanding the mechanism of translational control by miRNAs.
microRNA; let-7; RPS-14; ribosome; stem cell; C. elegans
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small non-coding RNAs that regulate the expression of numerous target genes. Yet, while hundreds of miRNAs have been identified, little is known about their functions. In a recent report published in Silence, Zheng and colleagues demonstrate a technique for robust and specific knockdown of miRNA expression in Caenorhabditis elegans using modified antisense oligonucleotides, which could be utilized as a powerful tool for the study of regulation and function of miRNAs in vivo.
See research article http://www.silencejournal.com/content/1/1/9
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) have recently emerged as an important new class of cellular regulators that control various cellular processes and are implicated in human diseases, including cancer. Here, we show that loss of let-7 function enhances lung tumor formation in vivo, strongly supporting the hypothesis that let-7 is a tumor suppressor. Moreover, we report that exogenous delivery of let-7 to established tumors in mouse models of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) significantly reduces tumor burden. These results demonstrate the therapeutic potential of let-7 in NSCLC and point to miRNA replacement therapy as a promising approach in cancer treatment.
Let-7; microRNAs; lung cancer; K-ras