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Identification of important long non-coding RNAs and highly recurrent aberrant alternative splicing events in hepatocellular carcinoma through integrative analysis of multiple RNA-Seq datasets

Abstract

Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is an aggressive and deadly cancer. The molecular pathogenesis of the disease remains poorly understood. To better understand HCC biology and explore potential biomarkers and therapeutic targets, we investigated the whole transcriptome of HCC. Considering the genetic heterogeneity of HCC, four datasets from four studies consisting of 15 pairs of HCC and adjacent normal samples were analyzed. We observed that the number of lncRNAs expressed in each HCC sample was consistently greater than the adjacent normal sample. Moreover, 15 lncRNAs were identified expressed in five to seven HCC tissues but were not detected in any adjacent normal tissue. Differential expression analysis detected 35 up- and 80 down-regulated lncRNAs in HCC samples compared with adjacent normal samples. In addition, five differentially expressed lncRNAs were predicted to play a role in oxidation and reduction process. With regard to splicing alterations, we identified nine highly recurrent differential splicing events belonging to eight genes USO1, RPS24, CCDC50, THNSL2, NUMB, FN1 (two events), SLC39A14 and NR1I3. Of them, splicing alterations of SLC39A14 and NR1I3 were reported for the association with HCC for the first time. The splicing dysregulation in HCC may be influenced by three splicing factors ESRP2, CELF2 and SRSF5 which were significantly down-regulated in HCC samples. This study revealed uncharacterized aspects of HCC transcriptome and identified important lncRNAs and splicing isoforms with the potential to serve as biomarkers and therapeutic targets for the disease.

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Acknowledgments

This research was sponsored by Merck Sharp & Dohme (MSD) postdoc fellowship. We thank I-Ming Wang for good comments and Yunfei Pei, Hongchao Lu and Lan Chen for valuable discussion.

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Correspondence to Xuegong Zhang or Ronghua Chen.

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Communicated by S. Hohmann.

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Zhang, L., Liu, X., Zhang, X. et al. Identification of important long non-coding RNAs and highly recurrent aberrant alternative splicing events in hepatocellular carcinoma through integrative analysis of multiple RNA-Seq datasets. Mol Genet Genomics 291, 1035–1051 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00438-015-1163-y

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Keywords

  • HCC
  • Long noncoding RNA (lncRNA)
  • Alternative splicing
  • RNA-Seq