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Invasive urothelial carcinoma (iUC) is a major cause of death in humans, and approximately 165,000 individuals succumb to this cancer annually worldwide. Comparative oncology using relevant animal models is necessary to improve our understanding of progression, diagnosis, and treatment of iUC. Companion canines are a preferred animal model of iUC due to spontaneous tumor development and similarity to human disease in terms of histopathology, metastatic behavior, and treatment response. However, the comprehensive molecular characterization of canine iUC is not well documented. In this study, we performed transcriptome analysis of tissue samples from canine iUC and normal bladders using an RNA sequencing (RNA-Seq) approach to identify key molecular pathways in canine iUC.
Total RNA was extracted from bladder tissues of 11 dogs with iUC and five healthy dogs, and RNA-Seq was conducted. Ingenuity Pathway Analysis (IPA) was used to assign differentially expressed genes to known upstream regulators and functional networks.
Differential gene expression analysis of the RNA-Seq data revealed 2531 differentially expressed genes, comprising 1007 upregulated and 1524 downregulated genes, in canine iUC. IPA revealed that the most activated upstream regulator was PTGER2 (encoding the prostaglandin E2 receptor EP2), which is consistent with the therapeutic efficiency of cyclooxygenase inhibitors in canine iUC. Similar to human iUC, canine iUC exhibited upregulated ERBB2 and downregulated TP53 pathways. Biological functions associated with cancer, cell proliferation, and leukocyte migration were predicted to be activated, while muscle functions were predicted to be inhibited, indicating muscle-invasive tumor property.
Our data confirmed similarities in gene expression patterns between canine and human iUC and identified potential therapeutic targets (PTGER2, ERBB2, CCND1, Vegf, and EGFR), suggesting the value of naturally occurring canine iUC as a relevant animal model for human iUC.