Decoding competing endogenous RNA networks for cancer biomarker discovery

Brief Bioinform. 2020 Mar 23;21(2):441-457. doi: 10.1093/bib/bbz006.


Crosstalk between competing endogenous RNAs (ceRNAs) is mediated by shared microRNAs (miRNAs) and plays important roles both in normal physiology and tumorigenesis; thus, it is attractive for systems-level decoding of gene regulation. As ceRNA networks link the function of miRNAs with that of transcripts sharing the same miRNA response elements (MREs), e.g. pseudogenes, competing mRNAs, long non-coding RNAs, and circular RNAs, the perturbation of crucial interactions in ceRNA networks may contribute to carcinogenesis by affecting the balance of cellular regulatory system. Therefore, discovering biomarkers that indicate cancer initiation, development, and/or therapeutic responses via reconstructing and analyzing ceRNA networks is of clinical significance. In this review, the regulatory function of ceRNAs in cancer and crucial determinants of ceRNA crosstalk are firstly discussed to gain a global understanding of ceRNA-mediated carcinogenesis. Then, computational and experimental approaches for ceRNA network reconstruction and ceRNA validation, respectively, are described from a systems biology perspective. We focus on strategies for biomarker identification based on analyzing ceRNA networks and highlight the translational applications of ceRNA biomarkers for cancer management. This article will shed light on the significance of miRNA-mediated ceRNA interactions and provide important clues for discovering ceRNA network-based biomarker in cancer biology, thereby accelerating the pace of precision medicine and healthcare for cancer patients.

Keywords: biomarker discovery; cancer pathogenesis and management; ceRNA interaction; network reconstruction and characterization.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't