MicroRNA meta-signature of oral cancer: evidence from a meta-analysis

Aim: It was the aim of the study to identify commonly deregulated miRNAs in oral cancer patients by performing a meta-analysis of previously published miRNA expression profiles in cancer and matched normal non-cancerous tissue in such patients.

Material and methods: Meta-analysis included seven independent studies analyzed by a vote-counting method followed by bioinformatic enrichment analysis.

Results: Amongst seven independent studies included in the meta-analysis, 20 miRNAs were found to be deregulated in oral cancer when compared with non-cancerous tissue. Eleven miRNAs were consistently up-regulated in three or more studies (miR-21-5p, miR-31-5p, miR-135b-5p, miR-31-3p, miR-93-5p, miR-34b-5p, miR-424-5p, miR-18a-5p, miR-455-3p, miR-450a-5p, miR-21-3p), and nine were down-regulated (miR-139-5p, miR-30a-3p, miR-376c-3p, miR-885-5p, miR-375, miR-486-5p, miR-411-5p, miR-133a-3p, miR-30a-5p). The meta-signature of identified miRNAs was functionally characterized by KEGG enrichment analysis. Twenty-four KEGG pathways were significantly enriched, and TGF-beta signaling was the most enriched signaling pathway. The highest number of meta-signature miRNAs was involved in the sphingolipid signaling pathway. Natural killer cell-mediated cytotoxicity was the pathway with most genes regulated by identified miRNAs. The rest of the enriched pathways in our miRNA list describe different malignancies and signaling.

Conclusions: The identified miRNA meta-signature might be considered as a potential battery of biomarkers when distinguishing oral cancer tissue from normal, non-cancerous tissue. Further mechanistic studies are warranted in order to confirm and fully elucidate the role of deregulated miRNAs in oral cancer.