Theranostics 2018; 8(16):4345-4358. doi:10.7150/thno.26862

Research Paper

Transcriptomic signature associated with carcinogenesis and aggressiveness of papillary thyroid carcinoma

Huajing Teng1,#,✉, Fengbiao Mao1,#, Jialong Liang1, Meiying Xue1,2, Wenqing Wei1,2, Xianfeng Li1, Kun Zhang3, Dongdong Feng4, Baoguo Liu4, Zhongsheng Sun1,✉

1. Beijing Institutes of Life Science, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China
2. University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China.
3. Institute of Genomic Medicine, Wenzhou Medical University, Wenzhou, China
4. Department of Head and Neck Surgery, Key Laboratory of Carcinogenesis and Translational Research (Ministry of Education), Peking University Cancer Hospital and Institute, Beijing, China.
#Authors contributed equally to this work.


Papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC) is the fastest-growing disease caused by numerous molecular alterations in addition to previously reported DNA mutations. There is a compelling need to identify novel transcriptomic alterations that are associated with the pathogenesis of PTC with potential diagnostic and prognostic implications.

Methods: We gathered and compared 242 expression profiles between paired PTC and adjacent normal tissues and identified and validated the coding and long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) associated with the extrathyroidal extension (ETE) of 655 PTC patients in two independent cohorts, followed by predicting their interactions with drugs. Co-expression, RNA interaction, Kaplan-Meier survival and multivariate Cox proportional regression analyses were performed to identify dysregulated lncRNAs and genes that correlated with clinical outcomes of PTC. Alternative splicing (AS), RNA circularization, and editing were also compared between transcriptomes to expand the repertoire of molecular alterations in PTC.

Results: Numerous genes related to cellular microenvironment and steroid hormone response were associated with the ETE of PTC. Drug susceptibility predictions of the expression signature revealed two highly ranked compounds, 6-bromoindirubin-3'-oxime and lovastatin. Co-expression and RNA interaction analysis revealed the essential role of lncRNAs in PTC pathogenesis by modulating extracellular matrix and cell adhesion. Eight genes and two novel lncRNAs were identified that correlated with the aggressive nature and disease-free survival of PTC. Furthermore, this study provided the transcriptome-wide landscape of circRNAs in PTC and uncovered dissimilar expression profiles among circRNAs originating from the same host gene, suggesting the functional complexity of circRNAs in PTC carcinogenesis. The newly identified AS events in the SERPINA1 and FN1 genes may improve the sensitivity and specificity of these diagnostic biomarkers.

Conclusions: Our study uncovered a comprehensive transcriptomic signature associated with the carcinogenesis and aggressive behavior of PTC, as well as presents a catalog of 10 potential biomarkers, which would facilitate PTC prognosis and development of new therapeutic strategies for this cancer.

Keywords: papillary thyroid carcinoma, long non-coding RNAs, circular RNAs, alternative splicing, RNA editing, drug susceptibility

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How to cite this article:
Teng H, Mao F, Liang J, Xue M, Wei W, Li X, Zhang K, Feng D, Liu B, Sun Z. Transcriptomic signature associated with carcinogenesis and aggressiveness of papillary thyroid carcinoma. Theranostics 2018; 8(16):4345-4358. doi:10.7150/thno.26862. Available from