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Alternative Polyadenylation: Another Foe in Cancer

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2016-06-01
Advancements in sequencing and transcriptome analysis methods have led to seminal discoveries that have begun to unravel the complexity of cancer. These studies are paving the way toward the development of improved diagnostics, prognostic predictions, and targeted treatment options. However, it is clear that pieces of the cancer puzzle are still missing. In an effort to have a more comprehensive understanding of the development and progression of cancer, we have come to appreciate the value of the noncoding regions of our genomes, partly due to the discovery of miRNAs and their significance in gene regulation. Interestingly, the miRNA-mRNA interactions are not solely dependent on variations in miRNA levels. Instead, the majority of genes harbor multiple polyadenylation signals on their 3' UTRs (untranslated regions) that can be differentially selected on the basis of the physiologic state of cells, resulting in alternative 3' UTR isoforms. Deregulation of alternative polyadenylation (APA) has increasing interest in cancer research, because APA generates mRNA 3' UTR isoforms with potentially different stabilities, subcellular localizations, translation efficiencies, and functions. This review focuses on the link between APA and cancer and discusses the mechanisms as well as the tools available for investigating APA events in cancer. Overall, detection of deregulated APA-generated isoforms in cancer may implicate some proto-oncogene activation cases of unknown causes and may help the discovery of novel cases; thus, contributing to a better understanding of molecular mechanisms of cancer. (C) 2016 AACR.