Identification of differentially expressed genes and splicing events in early-onset colorectal cancer

Olivia M. Marx, Marc M. Mankarious, Walter A. Koltun, Gregory S. Yochum

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Background: The incidence of colorectal cancer (CRC) has been steadily increasing in younger individuals over the past several decades for reasons that are incompletely defined. Identifying differences in gene expression profiles, or transcriptomes, in early-onset colorectal cancer (EOCRC, < 50 years old) patients versus later-onset colorectal cancer (LOCRC, > 50 years old) patients is one approach to understanding molecular and genetic features that distinguish EOCRC. Methods: We performed RNA-sequencing (RNA-seq) to characterize the transcriptomes of patient-matched tumors and adjacent, uninvolved (normal) colonic segments from EOCRC (n=21) and LOCRC (n=22) patients. The EOCRC and LOCRC cohorts were matched for demographic and clinical characteristics. We used The Cancer Genome Atlas Colon Adenocarcinoma (TCGA-COAD) database for validation. We used a series of computational and bioinformatic tools to identify EOCRC-specific differentially expressed genes, molecular pathways, predicted cell populations, differential gene splicing events, and predicted neoantigens. Results: We identified an eight-gene signature in EOCRC comprised of ALDOB, FBXL16, IL1RN, MSLN, RAC3, SLC38A11, WBSCR27 and WNT11, from which we developed a score predictive of overall CRC patient survival. On the entire set of genes identified in normal tissues and tumors, cell type deconvolution analysis predicted a differential abundance of immune and non-immune populations in EOCRC versus LOCRC. Gene set enrichment analysis identified increased expression of splicing machinery in EOCRC. We further found differences in alternative splicing (AS) events, including one within the long non-coding RNA, HOTAIRM1. Additional analysis of AS found seven events specific to EOCRC that encode potential neoantigens. Conclusion: Our transcriptome analyses identified genetic and molecular features specific to EOCRC which may inform future screening, development of prognostic indicators, and novel drug targets.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1365762
JournalFrontiers in Oncology
StatePublished - 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research

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