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Integrative genomic analyses identify lncRNA regulatory networks across pediatric leukemias and solid tumors

Long noncoding RNAs (lncRNA) play an important role in gene regulation and contribute to tumorigenesis. While pan-cancer studies of lncRNA expression have been performed for adult malignancies, the lncRNA landscape across pediatric cancers remains largely uncharted. Here, we curated RNA sequencing data for 1,044 pediatric leukemia and extracranial solid tumors and integrated paired tumor whole genome sequencing and epigenetic data in relevant cell line models to explore lncRNA expression, regulation, and association with cancer. A total of 2,657 lncRNAs were robustly expressed across six pediatric cancers, including 1,142 exhibiting histotype-elevated expression. DNA copy number alterations contributed to lncRNA dysregulation at a proportion comparable to protein coding genes. Application of a multidimensional framework to identify and prioritize lncRNAs impacting gene networks revealed that lncRNAs dysregulated in pediatric cancer are associated with proliferation, metabolism, and DNA damage hallmarks. Analysis of upstream regulation via cell type-specific transcription factors further implicated distinct histotype-elevated and developmental lncRNAs. Integration of these analyses prioritized lncRNAs for experimental validation, and silencing of TBX2-AS1, the top-prioritized neuroblastoma-specific lncRNA, resulted in significant growth inhibition of neuroblastoma cells, confirming the computational predictions. Taken together, these data provide a comprehensive characterization of lncRNA regulation and function in pediatric cancers and pave the way for future mechanistic studies.

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