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Yu-fang Bi, Rui-xin Liu, Lei Ye, Hai Fang, Xiao-ying Li, Wei-qing Wang, Ji Zhang, Kan-Kan Wang, Lei Jiang, Ting-wei Su, Zhong-yuan Chen and Guang Ning

Although there has been increased knowledge about the molecular biology of neuroendocrine tumors (NETs), little is known about thymic carcinoids and even less about those with excessive hormone disorders, such as ectopic ACTH syndrome. This study was designed to gain insights into the molecular networks underlying the tumorigenesis of thymic carcinoids with ACTH secretion. By an approach integrating cDNA microarray and methods of computational biology, we compare gene expression profile between ACTH-producing thymic carcinoids and the normal thymus. In total, there are 63 biological categories increased and 108 decreased in thymic carcinoids. Cell proliferation was stimulated, which may explain the relatively uncontrolled cell growth of the tumor. Dysregulation of the Notch-signaling pathway was likely to be underlying the neuroendocrine features of this type of tumors. Moreover, inhibition of immunity and increased neuropeptide signaling molecules (POMC and its sorting molecule CPE) made the clinical manifestation reasonable and thus validated the array data. In conclusion, thymic carcinoids have a distinct gene expression pattern from the normal thymus, and they are characterized by deregulations of a series of biofunctions, which may be involved in the development of NETs. Hence, this study has provided not only a detailed comprehension of the molecular pathogenesis of thymic carcinoids with ectopic ACTH syndrome, but also a road map to approach thymic NETs at the system level.

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Jie Cai, Lin Li, Lei Ye, Xiaohua Jiang, Liyun Shen, Zhibo Gao, Weiyuan Fang, Fengjiao Huang, Tingwei Su, Yulin Zhou, Weiqing Wang and Guang Ning

Activating rearranged during transfection (RET) mutations function as the initiating causative mutation for multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2A (MEN2A). However, no conclusive findings regarding the non-RET genetic events have been reported. This is the first study, to our knowledge, examining genomic alterations in matched MEN2A-associated tumors. We performed exome sequencing and SNP array analysis of matched MEN2A tumors and germline DNA. Somatic alterations were validated in an independent set of patients using Sanger sequencing. Genes of functional interest were further evaluated. The germline RET mutation was found in all MEN2A-component tumors. Thirty-two somatic mutations were identified in the nine MEN2A-associated tumors, of which 28 (87.5%) were point mutations and 4 (12.5%) were small insertions, duplications, or deletions. We sequenced all the mutations as well as coding sequence regions of the 12 genes in an independent sample set including 35 medullary thyroid cancers (20 MEN2A) and 34 PCCs (22 MEN2A), but found no recurrent mutations. Recurrent alterations were found in 13 genes with either mutations or alterations in copy number, including an EIF4G1 mutation (p. E1147V). Mutation of EIF4G1 led to increased cell proliferation and RET/MAPK phosphorylation, while knockdown of EIF4G1 led to reduced cell proliferation and RET/MAPK phosphorylation in TT, MZ-CRC1, and PC-12 cells. We found fewer somatic mutations in endocrine tumors compared with non-endocrine tumors. RET was the primary driver in MEN2A-associated tumors. However, low-frequency alterations such as EIF4G1 might participate in MEN2A-associated tumorigenesis, possibly by regulating the activity of the RET pathway.

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Libero Santarpia, George A Calin, Liana Adam, Lei Ye, Alfredo Fusco, Serena Giunti, Christina Thaller, Laura Paladini, Xinna Zhang, Camilo Jimenez, Francesco Trimarchi, Adel K El-Naggar and Robert F Gagel

MicroRNAs (miRNAs) represent a class of small, non-coding RNAs that control gene expression by targeting mRNA and triggering either translational repression or RNA degradation. The objective of our study was to evaluate the involvement of miRNAs in human medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC) and to identify the markers of metastatic cells and aggressive tumour behaviour. Using matched primary and metastatic tumour samples, we identified a subset of miRNAs aberrantly regulated in metastatic MTC. Deregulated miRNAs were confirmed by quantitative real-time PCR and validated by in situ hybridisation on a large independent set of primary and metastatic MTC samples. Our results uncovered ten miRNAs that were significantly expressed and deregulated in metastatic tumours: miR-10a, miR-200b/-200c, miR-7 and miR-29c were down-regulated and miR-130a, miR-138, miR-193a-3p, miR-373 and miR-498 were up-regulated. Bioinformatic approaches revealed potential miRNA targets and signals involved in metastatic MTC pathways. Migration, proliferation and invasion assays were performed in cell lines treated with miR-200 antagomirs to ascertain a direct role for this miRNA in MTC tumourigenesis. We show that the members of miR-200 family regulate the expression of E-cadherin by directly targeting ZEB1 and ZEB2 mRNA and through the enhanced expression of tumour growth factor β (TGFβ)-2 and TGFβ-1. Overall, the treated cells shifted to a mesenchymal phenotype, thereby acquiring an aggressive phenotype with increased motility and invasion. Our data identify a robust miRNA signature associated with metastatic MTC and distinct biological processes, e.g., TGFβ signalling pathway, providing new potential insights into the mechanisms of MTC metastasis.