Background: Globally, colorectal cancer (CRC) is the third most common cancer in women
and the fourth most common cancer in men. Dysregulation of small non-coding miRNAs have been
correlated with colon cancer progression. Since there are increasing reports of candidate miRNAs as
potential biomarkers for CRC, this makes it important to explore common miRNA biomarkers for colon
cancer. As computational prediction of miRNA targets is a critical initial step in identifying miRNA:
mRNA target interactions for validation, we aim here to construct a potential miRNA network and
its gene targets for colon cancer from previously reported candidate miRNAs, inclusive of 10 up- and
9 down-regulated miRNAs from tissues; and 10 circulatory miRNAs.
Methods: The gene targets were predicted using DIANA-microT-CDS and TarBaseV7.0 databases.
Each miRNA and its targets were analyzed further for colon cancer hotspot genes, whereupon DAVID
analysis and mirPath were used for KEGG pathway analysis.
Results: We have predicted 874 and 157 gene targets for tissue and serum specific miRNA candidates,
respectively. The enrichment of miRNA revealed that particularly hsa-miR-424-5p, hsa-miR-96-5p,
hsa-miR-1290, hsa-miR-224, hsa-miR-133a and has-miR-363-3p present possible targets for colon
cancer hallmark genes, including BRAF, KRAS, EGFR, APC, amongst others. DAVID analysis of
miRNA and associated gene targets revealed the KEGG pathways most related to cancer and colon
cancer. Similar results were observed in mirPath analysis. A new insight gained in the colon cancer
network pathway was the association of hsa-mir-133a and hsa-mir-96-5p with the PI3K-AKT signaling
pathway. In the present study, target prediction shows that while hsa-mir-424-5p has an association
with mostly 10 colon cancer hallmark genes, only their associations with MAP2 and CCND1
have been experimentally validated.
Conclusion: These miRNAs and their targets require further evaluation for a better understanding of
their associations, ultimately with the potential to develop novel therapeutic targets.