Elevated miR-31 expression is associated with poor outcome in colorectal cancer (CRC). Whether the prognostic information is independent of known molecular subgroups and gene expression-based consensus molecular subtypes (CMS) is currently unknown. To investigate this, we analyzed nearly 2000 CRC biopsies and preclinical models. The expression of miR-31-5p and its host transcript, long noncoding RNA MIR31HG, was strongly correlated (Spearman's ρ > 0.80). MIR31HG outlier expression was observed in 158/1265 (12%) of pCRCs and was associated with depletion of CMS2-canonical subgroup (odds ratio = 0.21 [0.11-0.35]) and shorter relapse-free survival (RFS) in multivariable analysis (adjusted hazard ratio = 2.2 [1.6-3.0]). For stage II disease, 5-year RFS for patients with MIR31HG outlier status was 49% compared to 77% for those with normal-like expression. MIR31HG outlier status was associated with inferior outcome also within clinical high risk groups and within the poor prognostic CMS4-mesenchymal gene expression subtype specifically. Preclinical models with MIR31HG outlier expression were characterized by reduced expression of MYC targets as well as elevated epithelial-mesenchymal transition, TNF-α/NFκB, TGF-β, and IFN-α/γ gene expression signatures, indicating cancer cell-intrinsic properties resembling the CMS4 subgroup-associations which were recapitulated in patient biopsies. Moreover, the prognostic value of MIR31HG outlier status was independent of cytotoxic T lymphocyte and fibroblast infiltration. We here present evidence that MIR31HG expression provides clinical stratification beyond major gene expression phenotypes and tumor immune and stromal cell infiltration and propose a model where increased expression is an indicator of a cellular state conferring intrinsic invasive and/or immuno-evasive capabilities.
Keywords: MIR31HG; biomarker; colorectal cancer; consensus molecular subtypes; gene expression profiles; miR-31-5p.
© 2018 The Authors. International Journal of Cancer published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of UICC.