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Computational Analysis of mRNA Expression Profiles Identifies MicroRNA-29a/c as Predictor of Colorectal Cancer Early Recurrence

Public Library of Science
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0031587
  • Research Article
  • Biology
  • Computational Biology
  • Mathematics
  • Statistics
  • Medicine
  • Clinical Genetics
  • Clinical Research Design
  • Diagnostic Medicine
  • Pathology
  • General Pathology
  • Epidemiology
  • Gastroenterology And Hepatology
  • Computer Science
  • Medicine


Colorectal cancer (CRC) is one of the leading malignant cancers with a rapid increase in incidence and mortality. The recurrences of CRC after curative resection are sometimes unavoidable and often take place within the first year after surgery. MicroRNAs may serve as biomarkers to predict early recurrence of CRC, but identifying them from over 1,400 known human microRNAs is challenging and costly. An alternative approach is to analyze existing expression data of messenger RNAs (mRNAs) because generally speaking the expression levels of microRNAs and their target mRNAs are inversely correlated. In this study, we extracted six mRNA expression data of CRC in four studies (GSE12032, GSE17538, GSE4526 and GSE17181) from the gene expression omnibus (GEO). We inferred microRNA expression profiles and performed computational analysis to identify microRNAs associated with CRC recurrence using the IMRE method based on the MicroCosm database that includes 568,071 microRNA-target connections between 711 microRNAs and 20,884 gene targets. Two microRNAs, miR-29a and miR-29c, were disclosed and further meta-analysis of the six mRNA expression datasets showed that these two microRNAs were highly significant based on the Fisher p-value combination (p = 9.14×10−9 for miR-29a and p = 1.14×10−6 for miR-29c). Furthermore, these two microRNAs were experimentally tested in 78 human CRC samples to validate their effect on early recurrence. Our empirical results showed that the two microRNAs were significantly down-regulated (p = 0.007 for miR-29a and p = 0.007 for miR-29c) in the early-recurrence patients. This study shows the feasibility of using mRNA profiles to indicate microRNAs. We also shows miR-29a/c could be potential biomarkers for CRC early recurrence.

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