Elucidation of molecular links between obesity and cancer through microRNA regulation

Haluk Dogan, Jiang Shu, Zeynep Hakguder, Zheng Xu, Juan Cui

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Background: Obesity contributes to high cancer risk in humans and the mechanistic links between these two pathologies are not yet understood. Recent emerging evidence has associated obesity and cancer with metabolic abnormalities and inflammation where microRNA regulation has a strong implication. Methods: In this study, we have developed an integrated framework to unravel obesity-cancer linkage from a microRNA regulation perspective. Different from traditional means of identifying static microRNA targets based on sequence and structure properties, our approach focused on the discovery of context-dependent microRNA-mRNA interactions that are potentially associated with disease progression via large-scale genomic analysis. Specifically, a meta-regression analysis and the integration of multi-omics information from obesity and cancers were presented to investigate the microRNA regulation in a dynamic and systematic manner. Results: Our analysis has identified a total number of 2,143 unique microRNA-gene interactions in obesity and seven types of cancer. Common interactions in obesity and obesity-associated cancers are found to regulate genes in key metabolic processes such as fatty acid and arachidonic acid metabolism and various signaling pathways related to cell growth and inflammation. Additionally, modulated co-regulations among microRNAs targeting the same functional processes were reflected through the analysis. Conclusion: We demonstrated the statistical modeling of microRNA-mediated gene regulation can facilitate the association study between obesity and cancer. The entire framework provides a powerful tool to understand multifaceted gene regulation in complex human diseases that can be generalized in other biomedical applications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number161
JournalBMC Medical Genomics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2020


  • Cancer
  • MicroRNA
  • MicroRNA regulation
  • Obesity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)


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