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Open Access Research article

Gene network-based analysis identifies two potential subtypes of small intestinal neuroendocrine tumors

Mark Kidd1*, Irvin M Modlin1* and Ignat Drozdov2

Author Affiliations

1 Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06510, USA

2 Bering Limited, Richmond, UK

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BMC Genomics 2014, 15:595  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-15-595

Published: 15 July 2014

Abstract

Background

Tumor transcriptomes contain information of critical value to understanding the different capacities of a cell at both a physiological and pathological level. In terms of clinical relevance, they provide information regarding the cellular “toolbox” e.g., pathways associated with malignancy and metastasis or drug dependency. Exploration of this resource can therefore be leveraged as a translational tool to better manage and assess neoplastic behavior. The availability of public genome-wide expression datasets, provide an opportunity to reassess neuroendocrine tumors at a more fundamental level. We hypothesized that stringent analysis of expression profiles as well as regulatory networks of the neoplastic cell would provide novel information that facilitates further delineation of the genomic basis of small intestinal neuroendocrine tumors.

Results

We re-analyzed two publically available small intestinal tumor transcriptomes using stringent quality control parameters and network-based approaches and validated expression of core secretory regulatory elements e.g., CPE, PCSK1, secretogranins, including genes involved in depolarization e.g., SCN3A, as well as transcription factors associated with neurodevelopment (NKX2-2, NeuroD1, INSM1) and glucose homeostasis (APLP1). The candidate metastasis-associated transcription factor, ST18, was highly expressed (>14-fold, p < 0.004). Genes previously associated with neoplasia, CEBPA and SDHD, were decreased in expression (-1.5 – -2, p < 0.02). Genomic interrogation indicated that intestinal tumors may consist of two different subtypes, serotonin-producing neoplasms and serotonin/substance P/tachykinin lesions. QPCR validation in an independent dataset (n = 13 neuroendocrine tumors), confirmed up-regulated expression of 87% of genes (13/15).

Conclusions

An integrated cellular transcriptomic analysis of small intestinal neuroendocrine tumors identified that they are regulated at a developmental level, have key activation of hypoxic pathways (a known regulator of malignant stem cell phenotypes) as well as activation of genes involved in apoptosis and proliferation. Further refinement of these analyses by RNAseq studies of large-scale databases will enable definition of individual master regulators and facilitate the development of novel tissue and blood-based tools to better understand diagnose and treat tumors.

Keywords:
Blood; Gene marker; Microarray; Network; Neurodevelopment; Neuroendocrine tumor; qPCR; Secretome; Transcript