Analysis of clock gene-miRNA correlation networks reveals candidate drivers in colorectal cancer

Oncotarget. 2016 Jul 19;7(29):45444-45461. doi: 10.18632/oncotarget.9989.


Altered functioning of the biological clock is involved in cancer onset and progression. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) interact with the clock genes modulating the function of genetically encoded molecular clockworks. Collaborative interactions may take place within the coding-noncoding RNA regulatory networks. We aimed to evaluate the cross-talk among miRNAs and clock genes in colorectal cancer (CRC). We performed an integrative analysis of miRNA-miRNA and miRNA-mRNA interactions on high-throughput molecular profiling of matched human CRC tissue and non-tumor mucosa, pinpointing core clock genes and their targeting miRNAs. Data obtained in silico were validated in CRC patients and human colon cancer cell lines. In silico we found severe alterations of clock gene-related coding-noncoding RNA regulatory networks in tumor tissues, which were later corroborated by the analysis of human CRC specimens and experiments performed in vitro. In conclusion, specific miRNAs target and regulate the transcription/translation of clock genes and clock gene-related miRNA-miRNA as well as mRNA-miRNA interactions are altered in colorectal cancer. Exploration of the interplay between specific miRNAs and genes, which are critically involved in the functioning of the biological clock, provides a better understanding of the importance of the miRNA-clock genes axis and its derangement in colorectal cancer.

Keywords: circadian; clock genes; colorectal cancer; miRNA-mRNA.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • CLOCK Proteins / biosynthesis*
  • CLOCK Proteins / genetics
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / genetics
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic / genetics*
  • Gene Regulatory Networks / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • MicroRNAs / genetics*
  • Middle Aged
  • Transcriptome


  • MicroRNAs
  • CLOCK Proteins