Background: Mammalian genomes are extensively transcribed producing thousands of long non-protein-coding RNAs (lncRNAs). The biological significance and function of the vast majority of lncRNAs remain unclear. Recent studies have implicated several lncRNAs as playing important roles in embryonic development and cancer progression. LncRNAs are characterized with different genomic architectures in relationship with their associated protein-coding genes. Our study aimed at bridging lncRNA architecture with dynamical patterns of their expression using differentiating human neuroblastoma cells model.
Results: LncRNA expression was studied in a 120-hours timecourse of differentiation of human neuroblastoma SH-SY5Y cells into neurons upon treatment with retinoic acid (RA), the compound used for the treatment of neuroblastoma. A custom microarray chip was utilized to interrogate expression levels of 9,267 lncRNAs in the course of differentiation. We categorized lncRNAs into 19 architecture classes according to their position relatively to protein-coding genes. For each architecture class, dynamics of expression of lncRNAs was studied in association with their protein-coding partners. It allowed us to demonstrate positive correlation of lncRNAs with their associated protein-coding genes at bidirectional promoters and for sense-antisense transcript pairs. In contrast, lncRNAs located in the introns and downstream of the protein-coding genes were characterized with negative correlation modes. We further classified the lncRNAs by the temporal patterns of their expression dynamics. We found that intronic and bidirectional promoter architectures are associated with rapid RA-dependent induction or repression of the corresponding lncRNAs, followed by their constant expression. At the same time, lncRNAs expressed downstream of protein-coding genes are characterized by rapid induction, followed by transcriptional repression. Quantitative RT-PCR analysis confirmed the discovered functional modes for several selected lncRNAs associated with proteins involved in cancer and embryonic development.
Conclusions: This is the first report detailing dynamical changes of multiple lncRNAs during RA-induced neuroblastoma differentiation. Integration of genomic and transcriptomic levels of information allowed us to demonstrate specific behavior of lncRNAs organized in different genomic architectures. This study also provides a list of lncRNAs with possible roles in neuroblastoma.