Long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs) can function as competing endogenous RNAs (ceRNAs) and interact with microRNAs (miRNAs) to regulate target gene expression, which can greatly influence tumor development and progression. Different tumor-node-metastasis (TNM) stages of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) defined by the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) have different clinical results. Our purpose was to comprehensively analyze differentially expressed (DE) lncRNAs, miRNAs, and mRNAs in stage I HCC and identify prognosis-associated RNAs.
RNA-seq data were obtained from The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) database. A stage I HCC-associated miRNA-lncRNA-mRNA network was constructed. Next, Gene Ontology (GO) and Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes (KEGG) enrichment pathway analyses of ceRNA-associated DEmRNAs were performed using Database for Annotation, Visualization, and Integrated Discovery (DAVID) 6.8 and Clusterprofile in the R package. The protein-protein interaction (PPI) network of the above mRNAs was then constructed using STRING. Finally, the association between lncRNAs and mRNAs in the ceRNA network and prognosis of patients was further analyzed. Linear regression analysis of the above lncRNAs and mRNAs associated with overall survival was performed.
After a comparison between HCC and adjacent nontumor tissues, 778 lncRNAs, 1608 mRNAs, and 102 miRNAs that were abnormally expressed were identified. The ceRNA network was composed of 56 DElncRNAs, 14 DEmiRNAs, and 30 DEmRNAs. Functional analysis results showed that 30 DEmRNAs were enriched in 14 GO biological process categories and 6 KEGG categories (false discovery rate (FDR) < 0.05). A PPI network was composed of 22 nodes and 58 edges. We detected 4 DElncRNAs (BPESC1, AC061975.6, AC079341.1, and CLLU1) and 6 DEmRNAs (CEP55, E2F1, E2F7, EZH2, G6PD, and SLC7A11) that had significant influences on the overall survival (OS) of stage I HCC patients (P < 0.05). lncRNA BPESC1 was positively correlated with mRNA CEP55 via miR-424, and lncRNA AC061975.6 was positively correlated with mRNA E2F1 via miR-519d.
Our study identified novel lncRNAs and mRNAs that were associated with the progression and prognosis of stage I HCC and further investigated the regulatory mechanism of lncRNA-mediated ceRNAs in the development of stage I HCC.