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Cancer Informatics

An Assessment of Database-Validated microRNA Target Genes in Normal Colonic Mucosa: Implications for Pathway Analysis

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Cancer Informatics 2017:16 1176935117716405

Original Research

Published on 23 Jun 2017

DOI: 10.1177/1176935117716405


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Abstract

Background:

Determination of functional pathways regulated by microRNAs (miRNAs), while an essential step in developing therapeutics, is challenging. Some miRNAs have been studied extensively; others have limited information. In this study, we focus on 254 miRNAs previously identified as being associated with colorectal cancer and their database-identified validated target genes.

Methods:

We use RNA-Seq data to evaluate messenger RNA (mRNA) expression for 157 subjects who also had miRNA expression data. In the replication phase of the study, we replicated associations between 254 miRNAs associated with colorectal cancer and mRNA expression of database-identified target genes in normal colonic mucosa. In the discovery phase of the study, we evaluated expression of 18 miRNAs (those with 20 or fewer database-identified target genes along with miR-21-5p, miR-215-5p, and miR-124-3p which have more than 500 database-identified target genes) with expression of 17 434 mRNAs to identify new targets in colon tissue. Seed region matches between miRNA and newly identified targeted mRNA were used to help determine direct miRNA-mRNA associations.

Results:

From the replication of the 121 miRNAs that had at least 1 database-identified target gene using mRNA expression methods, 97.9% were expressed in normal colonic mucosa. Of the 8622 target miRNA-mRNA associations identified in the database, 2658 (30.2%) were associated with gene expression in normal colonic mucosa after adjusting for multiple comparisons. Of the 133 miRNAs with database-identified target genes by non-mRNA expression methods, 97.2% were expressed in normal colonic mucosa. After adjustment for multiple comparisons, 2416 miRNA-mRNA associations remained significant (19.8%). Results from the discovery phase based on detailed examination of 18 miRNAs identified more than 80 000 miRNA-mRNA associations that had not previously linked to the miRNA. Of these miRNA-mRNA associations, 15.6% and 14.8% had seed matches for CRCh38 and CRCh37, respectively.

Conclusions:

Our data suggest that miRNA target gene databases are incomplete; pathways derived from these databases have similar deficiencies. Although we know a lot about several miRNAs, little is known about other miRNAs in terms of their targeted genes. We encourage others to use their data to continue to further identify and validate miRNA-targeted genes.



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