Comprehensive transcriptomic analyses of tissue, serum, and serum exosomes from hepatocellular carcinoma patients
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionBMC Cancer. 2019, 19 (1007) 10.1186/s12885-019-6249-1
Background The expression of microRNAs (miRNAs) is a promising prognostic and diagnostic tool in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Here we performed small RNA sequencing (sRNA-seq) of tissue, serum and serum exosomes to investigate changes in miRNA expression between the different sample types and correlated the expression with clinical parameters. We also performed gene expression arrays on tumor and normal tissue. Results Paired tissue, serum and serum exosomes sequencing revealed consistent positive correlation of miR-21 between serum exosomes and tumor tissue, indicating that miR-21 could be exported from tissue to circulation via exosomes. We found that let-7 miRNAs are generally upregulated in serum exosomes compared to whole serum, indicating that these miRNAs could be preferentially loaded into exosomes. Comparing serum from HCC patients with serum from healthy individuals revealed a global increase of miRNAs in serum from HCC patients, including an almost 4-fold increase of several miRNAs, including the liver-specific miR-122. When correlating miRNA expression with clinical parameters we detected significant association between hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection and miR-122 in serum as well as several serum and tissue-miRNAs that correlated with surgery type. We found that miR-141 and miR-146 correlated with cirrhosis in tumor tissue and normal tissue, respectively. Finally, high expression of miR-21 in tumors were associated with poor survival. Focusing on gene expression we found several significant messenger RNAs (mRNAs) between tumor and normal tissue and a Gene Ontology (GO) analysis revealed that these changes were mainly related to cell cycle and metabolism. Further, we detected mRNAs that correlated with cirrhosis and HBV infection in tissue. Finally, GO analysis of predicted targets for miRNAs down-regulated in tumor found that these were enriched for functions related to collagen synthesis. Conclusions Our combined data point to altered miRNA and mRNA expression contributing to both generally impaired lipid metabolism and increased cell proliferation and a miRNA-driven increase in collagen synthesis in HCC. Our results further indicate a correlation in miRNA expression between exosomes, serum, and tissue samples suggesting export from tumors via exosomes. This correlation could provide a basis for a more tumor-specific miRNA profile in serum.