Comprehensive network of miRNA-induced intergenic interactions and a biological role of its core in cancer
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are a family of short noncoding RNAs that posttranscriptionally regulate gene expression and play an important role in multiple cellular processes. A significant percentage of miRNAs are intragenic, which is often functionally related to their host genes playing either antagonistic or synergistic roles. In this study, we constructed and analyzed the entire network of intergenic interactions induced by intragenic miRNAs. We further focused on the core of this network, which was defined as a union of nontrivial strongly connected components, i.e., sets of nodes (genes) mutually connected via directed paths. Both the entire network and its core possessed statistically significant non-random properties. Specifically, genes forming the core had high expression levels and low expression variance. Furthermore, the network core did not split into separate components corresponding to individual signalling or metabolic pathways, but integrated genes involved in key cellular processes, including DNA replication, transcription, protein homeostasis and cell metabolism. We suggest that the network core, consisting of genes mutually regulated by their intragenic miRNAs, could coordinate adjacent pathways or homeostatic control circuits, serving as a horizontal inter-circuit link. Notably, expression patterns of these genes had an efficient prognostic potential for breast and colorectal cancer patients.