Characterization of the intronic portion of cadherin superfamily members, common cancer orchestrators

Eur J Hum Genet. 2012 Aug;20(8):878-83. doi: 10.1038/ejhg.2012.11. Epub 2012 Feb 8.


Cadherins are cell-cell adhesion proteins essential for the maintenance of tissue architecture and integrity, and their impairment is often associated with human cancer. Knowledge regarding regulatory mechanisms associated with cadherin misexpression in cancer is scarce. Specific features of the intronic-structure and intronic-based regulatory mechanisms in the cadherin superfamily are unidentified. This study aims at systematically characterizing the intronic portion of cadherin superfamily members and the identification of intronic regions constituting putative targets/triggers of regulation, using a bioinformatic approach and biological data mining. Our study demonstrates that the cadherin superfamily genes harbour specific characteristics in comparison to all non-cadherin genes, both from the genomic and transcriptional standpoints. Cadherin superfamily genes display higher average total intron number and significantly longer introns than other genes and across the entire vertebrate lineage. Moreover, in the human genome, we observed an uncommon high frequency of MIR (mammalian-wide interspersed repeats) and MaLR (mammalian-wide interspersed repeats, a subtype of LTR) regulatory-associated repetitive elements at 5'-located introns, concomitantly with increased de novo intronic transcription. Using this approach, we identified cadherin intronic-specific sites that may constitute novel targets/triggers of cadherin superfamily expression regulation. These findings pinpoint the need to identify mechanisms affecting particularly MIR and MaLR elements located in introns 2 and 3 of human cadherin genes, possibly important in the expression modulation of this superfamily in homeostasis and cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cadherins / genetics*
  • Conserved Sequence
  • Humans
  • Introns*
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Repetitive Sequences, Nucleic Acid
  • Transcription, Genetic
  • Vertebrates / genetics


  • Cadherins