Differential alternative splicing between hepatocellular carcinoma with normal and elevated serum alpha-fetoprotein
BMC Medical Genomics
Background Serum alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) is the approved serum marker for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) screening. However, not all HCC patients show high (≥ 20 ng/mL) serum AFP, and the molecular mechanisms of HCCs with normal (< 20 ng/mL) serum AFP remain to be elucidated. Therefore, we aimed to identify biological features of HCCs with normal serum AFP by investigating differential alternative splicing (AS) between HCCs with normal and high serum AFP. Methods We performed a genome-wide
... a genome-wide survey of AS events in 249 HCCs with normal (n = 131) and high (n = 118) serum AFP levels using RNA-sequencing data obtained from The Cancer Genome Atlas. Results In group comparisons of RNA-seq profiles from HCCs with normal and high serum AFP levels, 161 differential AS events (125 genes; ΔPSI > 0.05, FDR < 0.05) were identified to be alternatively spliced between the two groups. Those genes were enriched in cell migration or proliferation terms such as "the cell migration and growth-cone collapse" and "regulation of insulin-like growth factor (IGF) transport and uptake by IGF binding proteins". Most of all, two AS genes (FN1 and FAM20A) directly interact with AFP; these relate to the regulation of IGF transport and post-translational protein phosphorylation. Interestingly, 42 genes and 27 genes were associated with gender and vascular invasion (VI), respectively, but only eighteen genes were significant in survival analysis. We especially highlight that FN1 exhibited increased differential expression of AS events (ΔPSI > 0.05), in which exons 25 and 33 were more frequently skipped in HCCs with normal (low) serum AFP compared to those with high serum AFP. Moreover, these events were gender and VI dependent. Conclusion We found that AS may influence the regulation of transcriptional differences inherent in the occurrence of HCC maintaining normal rather than elevated serum AFP levels.