The tumorigenesis of small intestinal neuroendocrine tumors (SI-NETs) is poorly understood. Recent studies have associated alternative polyadenylation (APA) with proliferation, cell transformation, and cancer. Polyadenylation is the process in which the pre-messenger RNA is cleaved at a polyA site and a polyA tail is added. Genes with two or more polyA sites can undergo APA. This produces two or more distinct mRNA isoforms with different 3' untranslated regions. Additionally, APA can also produce mRNAs containing different 3'-terminal coding regions. Therefore, APA alters both the repertoire and the expression level of proteins. Here, we used high-throughput sequencing data to map polyA sites and characterize polyadenylation genome-wide in three SI-NETs and a reference sample. In the tumors, 16 genes showed significant changes of APA pattern, which lead to either the 3' truncation of mRNA coding regions or 3' untranslated regions. Among these, 11 genes had been previously associated with cancer, with 4 genes being known tumor suppressors: DCC, PDZD2, MAGI1, and DACT2. We validated the APA in three out of three cases with quantitative real-time-PCR. Our findings suggest that changes of APA pattern in these 16 genes could be involved in the tumorigenesis of SI-NETs. Furthermore, they also point to APA as a new target for both diagnostic and treatment of SI-NETs. The identified genes with APA specific to the SI-NETs could be further tested as diagnostic markers and drug targets for disease prevention and treatment.
Keywords: carcinoids; gene transcription; molecular biology; neuroendocrine tumors; polyadenylation.