The results, which are published in EMBO reports, indicate that differences in the levels of specific types of non-coding RNAs can be used to distinguish between cancerous and non-cancerous tissues. These RNAs can also be used to classify cancer patients into subgroups of individuals that have different survival outcomes.
Small non-coding RNAs are RNA molecules that do not give rise to proteins but which may have other important functions in the cell. “For many years, small non-coding RNAs near transcriptional start sites have been regarded as ‘transcriptional noise’ due to their apparent chaotic distribution and an inability to correlate these molecules with known functions or disease,” explains Steven Jones, one of the lead authors of the study, a professor at Simon Fraser University and the University of British Columbia, and a distinguished scientist at the BC Cancer Agency.
“By using a computational approach to analyze small RNA sequence information that we generated as part of The Cancer Genome Atlas project, we have been able to filter through this noise to find clinically useful information,” adds Jones. “The data from our experiments show that genome-wide changes in the expression levels of small non-coding RNAs in the first exons of protein-coding genes are associated with breast cancer.”
The scientists were able to distinguish between the many different small non-coding RNAs that are found near the transcriptional start sites of genes in healthy individuals and patients with breast cancer (in this case, breast invasive carcinoma). They mapped these RNA molecules to specific locations on the DNA sequence and looked for correlations between the non-coding RNAs that were strongly expressed and the disease status of the patients from whom the tissue samples were isolated. The researchers then tested if the expression of the small RNAs in genomic locations that they were able to identify could be used to predict the presence of disease in another group of tissue samples obtained from patients known to have breast cancer. The test efficiently predicted the correct disease status for the samples in the new study group.
“The potential to predict cancer status is restricted to only a subset of the many small non-coding RNAs found near transcription start sites of the genes. What’s more, these RNA locations are highly enriched with CpG islands,” says Athanasios Zovoilis, the first author of the study. CpG islands are genomic regions that contain a high frequency of cytosine and guanine. The presence of these RNAs in these islands may implicate their involvement with DNA methylation processes and the onset of disease but additional experiments are needed to explore and prove this link.
“This is the first time that small non-coding RNAs near the transcription start site of genes have been associated with disease,” says Jones. “Further work is required but based on our data we believe there is considerable diagnostic potential for these small non-coding RNAs as a predictive tool for cancer. In addition, they may help us understand better the mechanisms underlying oncogenesis at the epigenetic level and lead to potential new drugs employing small non-coding RNAs.” The researchers also note that this class of small non-coding RNAs may be useful in predicting the existence of other types of cancer or disease.
The generation of data by The Cancer Genome Atlas project, which now provides access to large amounts of sequencing information for diseased and normal tissues, made the work possible. The Cancer Genome Atlas is now one of the largest resources for small non-coding RNAs in existence.
The expression level of small non-coding RNAs derived from the first exon of protein coding genes is predictive of cancer statusAthanasios Zovoilis, Andrew J Mungall, Richard Moore, Richard Varhol,
Further information on EMBO reports is available at embor.embopress.orgMedia Contacts
EMBO helps young scientists to advance their research, promote their international reputations and ensure their mobility. Courses, workshops, conferences and scientific journals disseminate the latest research and offer training in techniques to maintain high standards of excellence in research practice. EMBO helps to shape science and research policy by seeking input and feedback from our community and by following closely the trends in science in Europe.
Yvonne Kaul | EMBO Communications
Ion treatments for cardiac arrhythmia — Non-invasive alternative to catheter-based surgery
20.01.2017 | GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung GmbH
Seeking structure with metagenome sequences
20.01.2017 | DOE/Joint Genome Institute
An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
19.01.2017 | Event News
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
20.01.2017 | Awards Funding
20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences
20.01.2017 | Life Sciences