BACKGROUND: Chimeric read-through RNAs are transcripts originating from two directly adjacent genes (<10 kb) on the same DNA strand. Although they are found in next-generation whole transcriptome sequencing (RNA-Seq) data on a regular basis, investigating them further has usually been refrained from. Therefore, their expression patterns or functions in general, and in oncogenesis in particular, are poorly understood.
RESULTS: We used paired-end RNA-Seq and a specifically designed computational data analysis pipeline (FusionSeq) to nominate read-through events in a small discovery set of renal cell carcinomas (RCC) and confirmed them in a larger validation cohort. 324 read-through events were called overall; 22/27 (81%) selected nominees passed validation with conventional PCR and were sequenced at the junction region. We frequently identified various isoforms of a given read-through event. 2/22 read-throughs were up-regulated: BC039389-GATM was higher expressed in RCC compared to benign adjacent kidney; KLK4-KRSP1 was expressed in 46/169 (27%) RCCs, but rarely in normal tissue. KLK4-KRSP1 expression was associated with worse clinical outcome in the patient cohort. In cell lines, both read-throughs influenced molecular mechanisms (i.e. target gene expression or migration/invasion) in a way that counteracted the effect of the respective parent transcript GATM or KLK4.
CONCLUSIONS: Our data suggests that the up-regulation of read-through RNA chimeras in tumors is not random but causes regulatory effects on cellular mechanisms and may impact patient survival.