Identification of potential serum exosomal microRNAs involved in acinar-ductal metaplasia that is a precursor of pancreatic cancer associated with chronic pancreatitis

Medicine (Baltimore). 2021 May 7;100(18):e25753. doi: 10.1097/MD.0000000000025753.


Backgrounds: Due to difficulty in early diagnosis of chronic pancreatitis (CP), it is urgent to find novel biomarkers to detect CP. Exosomal microRNAs (Exo-miRNAs) located in the serum may be potential diagnostic and therapeutic targets for CP.

Objective: To identify differentially expressed Exo-miRNAs (DE-Exo-miRNAs) in the serum of CP patients, we performed a bioinformatics analysis.

Methods: The dataset GSE128508 was downloaded from the Gene Expression Omnibus (GEO) database. The analysis was carried out using BRB-ArrayTools and significance analysis of microarrays (SAM). The target genes of DE-S-Exo-miRNAs were predicted by miRWalk databases. Further gene ontology (GO) term and Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genomes (KEGG) pathway analyses were performed with plug-in ClueGO in Cytoscape software 3.7.0. Subsequently, the interaction regulatory network between encoded proteins of target genes was performed with the Search Tool for the Retrieval of Interacting Genes (STRING) database and analyzed using plug-in Molecular Complex Detection (MCODE) and cytoHubba in Cytoscape software 3.7.0.

Results: We identified 227 DE-Exo-miRNAs in the serum. Further analysis using the miRWalk database identified 5164 target genes of these miRNAs. The protein-protein interaction (PPI) regulatory network of 1912 potential target genes for hub 10 up-regulated miRNAs with high degrees and one down-regulated miRNAs were constructed using the STRING database and Cytoscape software. The functional analysis using Cytoscape software tool highlighted that target genes involved in pancreatic cancer. Acinar-ductal metaplasia (ADM) in the inflammatory environment of CP is a precursor of pancreatic cancer. Subsequently, we constructed a network of target genes associated with ADM and their miRNAs.

Conclusions: Exo-miRNAs in the serum as well as their target genes may be promising targets for the early diagnosis and treatment of CP. In addition, we identified potential Exo-miRNAs involved in ADM that is a precursor of pancreatic cancer associated with CP.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Computational Biology
  • Datasets as Topic
  • Exosomes / metabolism
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Regulatory Networks
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Metaplasia
  • MicroRNAs / blood*
  • MicroRNAs / metabolism
  • Middle Aged
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • Pancreas / pathology*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / immunology
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Pancreatitis, Chronic / blood
  • Pancreatitis, Chronic / immunology
  • Pancreatitis, Chronic / pathology*
  • Precancerous Conditions / blood
  • Precancerous Conditions / diagnosis*
  • Precancerous Conditions / genetics
  • Protein Interaction Mapping
  • Protein Interaction Maps / genetics


  • Biomarkers
  • MicroRNAs