Evaluating the consistency of differential expression of microRNA detected in human cancers

Mol Cancer Ther. 2011 May;10(5):752-60. doi: 10.1158/1535-7163.MCT-10-0837. Epub 2011 Mar 11.


Differential expression of microRNA (miRNA) is involved in many human diseases and could potentially be used as a biomarker for disease diagnosis, prognosis, and therapy. However, inconsistency has often been found among differentially expressed miRNAs identified in various studies when using miRNA arrays for a particular disease such as a cancer. Before broadly applying miRNA arrays in a clinical setting, it is critical to evaluate inconsistent discoveries in a rational way. Thus, using data sets from 2 types of cancers, our study shows that the differentially expressed miRNAs detected from multiple experiments for each cancer exhibit stable regulation direction. This result also indicates that miRNA arrays could be used to reliably capture the signals of the regulation direction of differentially expressed miRNAs in cancer. We then assumed that 2 differentially expressed miRNAs with the same regulation direction in a particular cancer play similar functional roles if they regulate the same set of cancer-associated genes. On the basis of this hypothesis, we proposed a score to assess the functional consistency between differentially expressed miRNAs separately extracted from multiple studies for a particular cancer. We showed although lists of differentially expressed miRNAs identified from different studies for each cancer were highly variable, they were rather consistent at the level of function. Thus, the detection of differentially expressed miRNAs in various experiments for a certain disease tends to be functionally reproducible and capture functionally related differential expression of miRNAs in the disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Computational Biology
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic*
  • Humans
  • MicroRNAs / genetics
  • MicroRNAs / metabolism*
  • Models, Biological
  • Neoplasms / physiopathology*


  • MicroRNAs