A pan-cancer atlas of somatic mutations in miRNA biogenesis genes

Nucleic Acids Res. 2021 Jan 25;49(2):601-620. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkaa1223.


It is a well-known and intensively studied phenomenon that the levels of many miRNAs are differentiated in cancer. miRNA biogenesis and functional expression are complex processes orchestrated by many proteins cumulatively called miRNA biogenesis proteins. To characterize cancer somatic mutations in the miRNA biogenesis genes and investigate their potential impact on the levels of miRNAs, we analyzed whole-exome sequencing datasets of over 10 000 cancer/normal sample pairs deposited within the TCGA repository. We identified and characterized over 3600 somatic mutations in 29 miRNA biogenesis genes and showed that some of the genes are overmutated in specific cancers and/or have recurrent hotspot mutations (e.g. SMAD4 in PAAD, COAD and READ; DICER1 in UCEC; PRKRA in OV and LIN28B in SKCM). We identified a list of miRNAs whose level is affected by particular types of mutations in either SMAD4, SMAD2 or DICER1 and showed that hotspot mutations in the RNase domains in DICER1 not only decrease the level of 5p-miRNAs but also increase the level of 3p-miRNAs, including many well-known cancer-related miRNAs. We also showed an association of the mutations with patient survival. Eventually, we created an atlas/compendium of miRNA biogenesis alterations providing a useful resource for different aspects of biomedical research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • DEAD-box RNA Helicases / genetics*
  • DEAD-box RNA Helicases / metabolism
  • Datasets as Topic
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Genes, Neoplasm
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Humans
  • MicroRNAs / biosynthesis*
  • MicroRNAs / genetics
  • Models, Molecular
  • Mutation*
  • Mutation, Missense
  • Neoplasm Proteins / genetics*
  • Neoplasm Proteins / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / mortality
  • Protein Conformation
  • RNA, Neoplasm / biosynthesis*
  • RNA, Neoplasm / genetics
  • Ribonuclease III / genetics*
  • Ribonuclease III / metabolism
  • Smad2 Protein / chemistry
  • Smad2 Protein / genetics*
  • Smad2 Protein / metabolism
  • Smad4 Protein / chemistry
  • Smad4 Protein / genetics*
  • Smad4 Protein / metabolism


  • MicroRNAs
  • Neoplasm Proteins
  • RNA, Neoplasm
  • SMAD2 protein, human
  • SMAD4 protein, human
  • Smad2 Protein
  • Smad4 Protein
  • DICER1 protein, human
  • Ribonuclease III
  • DEAD-box RNA Helicases