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Research Papers:

Highly preserved consensus gene modules in human papilloma virus 16 positive cervical cancer and head and neck cancers

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Oncotarget. 2017; 8:114031-114040. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.23116

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Xianglan Zhang, In-Ho Cha and Ki-Yeol Kim _

Abstract

Xianglan Zhang1,2, In-Ho Cha2,3 and Ki-Yeol Kim4

1Department of Pathology, Yanbian University Medical College, Yanji City, Jilin Province, China

2Oral Cancer Research Institute, College of Dentistry, Yonsei University, Seoul, Korea

3Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, College of Dentistry, Yonsei University, Seoul, Korea

4Dental Education Research Center, BK21 PLUS Project, College of Dentistry, Yonsei University, Seoul, Korea

Correspondence to:

Ki-Yeol Kim, email: kky1004@yuhs.ac

Keywords: gene expression; consensus module; head and neck cancer; cervical cancer; multicancer therapy

Received: July 11, 2017     Accepted: November 15, 2017     Published: December 07, 2017

ABSTRACT

In this study, we investigated the consensus gene modules in head and neck cancer (HNC) and cervical cancer (CC). We used a publicly available gene expression dataset, GSE6791, which included 42 HNC, 14 normal head and neck, 20 CC and 8 normal cervical tissue samples. To exclude bias because of different human papilloma virus (HPV) types, we analyzed HPV16-positive samples only. We identified 3824 genes common to HNC and CC samples. Among these, 977 genes showed high connectivity and were used to construct consensus modules. We demonstrated eight consensus gene modules for HNC and CC using the dissimilarity measure and average linkage hierarchical clustering methods. These consensus modules included genes with significant biological functions, including ATP binding and extracellular exosome. Eigengen network analysis revealed the consensus modules were highly preserved with high connectivity. These findings demonstrate that HPV16-positive head and neck and cervical cancers share highly preserved consensus gene modules with common potentially therapeutic targets.


INTRODUCTION

Differential gene expression analysis has been widely used to identify critical gene and pathways involved in tumorigenesis [13]. However, a part from differential gene expression data, there is tremendous amount of critical information in the gene expression datasets that is ignored. For example, some mutant proteins with altered functions show similar expression in diseased and healthy individuals [3]. Therefore, diagnosis or prognosis based on the expression of a single biomarker gene may not be reliable. This implies that differential co-expression and differential network analysis are more relevant as they help in understanding the underlying biological processes that are key to the disease understanding and therapy [38].

Another strategy to optimize gene expression data involves comparative and integrative analyses of gene expression in multiple cancer types [9, 10]. The integrative approach improves reproducibility and identifies common markers for multiple types of cancer. The multi-cancer biomarkers are more reliable and superior than cancer-specific biomarkers [11]. Genes or proteins that are directly linked are most likely to belong to the same biological pathway or function [12]. Such groups of genes or proteins that belong to the same biological pathway are called modules. A common module that is found in multiple cancers is defined as the consensus module.

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the most common histological type of head and neck cancer (HNC) and cervical cancer (CC). Both HNC and CC demonstrate similar multistep progression, where in normal squamous epithelial cells undergo dysplastic changes followed by carcinoma formation, which subsequently becomes invasive and metastatic. Moreover, human papilloma virus type 16 (HPV16) is a major pathogen in HNC and CC [13]. Therefore, in this study, we investigated consensus gene modules of HNC and CC to identify common targets for therapy of HPV16-positive HNC and CC.

RESULTS

Common differentially expressed genes of HNC and CC

The GSE6791 microarray dataset was analyzed to identify common genes that play a significant role in HNC and CC. The dataset included 54675 probes and 84 samples (42 HNC and14 normal head and neck samples as well as 20 CC and 8 normal cervical tissue samples). We analyzed only HPV16 positive samples to exclude bias because of different HPV types.

We identified significantly expressed genes separately in HNC and CC, based on Mann-Whitney U test. The rates of commonly identified genes were 43.8% and 28.9% of the detected significant genes from HNC and CC, respectively. This indicated that these two types of cancers might have similar genomic variations to some extent.

Among 3824 complete genes, 977 genes with high connectivity were used to construct the consensus module. The expression patterns of common genes in HNC and CC samples were analyzed by unsupervised hierarchical clustering (Figure 1; orange indicates low and yellow indicates high expression). The genes were classified into 2 groups based on their expression patterns in HNC and CC samples compared to their respective normal samples (Figure 1). Genes that were downregulated in HNC and CC samples than normal samples were clustered into one group, whereas genes that were upregulated in the two cancer types than corresponding normal samples were clustered into another group (Figure 1).

Gene expression patterns in HNC and CC.

Figure 1: Gene expression patterns in HNC and CC. The expression patterns of 3824 common genes in HNC and CC samples relative to their corresponding controls are shown. The statistical analysis was performed with Mann-Whitney U test. The vertical and horizontal axes represent the gene lists and samples, respectively.

Consensus modules in HNC and CC

Next, we used the dissimilarity measure and average linkage hierarchical clustering method to construct consensus modules with common genes between HNC and CC [7, 12]. Genes in similar consensus modules were assigned a color code, whereas unassigned genes were colored grey. As shown in Figure 2A, we identified eight consensus modules that were assigned specific color codes, namely, brown (83 genes), yellow (80 genes), blue (105 genes), turquoise (141 genes), green (62 genes), red (53 genes), black (45 genes), pink (40 genes) and grey (368 genes).

Eigengene network in HNC and CC.

Figure 2: Eigengene network in HNC and CC. (A) Dendrogram shows hierarchical clustering of genes used to identify the consensus modules in HNC and CC samples. Branches of the dendrogram correspond to consensus modules. Genes in each module are assigned a particular color code, which is shown below the dendrogram. Genes not assigned to any of the modules are colored grey. (B and C) Clustering dendrograms show consensus module eigengenes in HNC and CC. The two major modules are evident in both dendrograms. (D) Heatmap shows eigengene proximities in the consensus eigengene network for CC samples. Each row and column corresponds to one eigengene (labeled by consensus module color). In the heatmap, red denoteshigh proximity (positive correlation) and green denotes low proximity (negative correlation). (E) Bar graph showing preservation measure (D) for each consensus eigengene (vertical axes). The module color is represented in each bar for the corresponding eigengenes. (F) Heatmap shows proximities in the preservation of eigengene networks of HNC and CC modules. Each row and column corresponds to a consensus module. The red pattern reveals the proximity of specific module in HNC and CC. (G) Heatmap shows eigengene proximities in the consensus eigengene network for HNC samples. The 8 consensus modules were clearly merged into two modules in HNC.

The modules were characterized by height and minimum size of branch. Consensus modules represent biological pathways shared between the HNC and CC data sets. For each data set, we represented the consensus modules by their corresponding eigengenes and then constructed a eigengene network (Figure 2). The consensus eigengenes in HNC and CC groups belonged to one of two branches (Figure 2B2C). The green, black and blue modules formed the first branch, whereas the brown, yellow, red, pink and turquoise modules formed the second branch. The module eigengenes were highly preserved (Figure 2). The eigengene networks of HNC and CC are shown in Figure 2D and 2G, respectively. The high connectivity showed that each individual eigengene in a module was highly preserved relative to the other eigengenes. The preservation indices were 0.811, 0.938, 0.933, 0.92, 0.835, 0.963, 0.92 and 0.919 for the brown, yellow, blue, turquoise, green, red, black and pink modules, respectively, with the overall preservation of 0.90 (Figure 2E). The consensus modules were preserved between the two data sets (Figure 2F).

Gene expression patterns of eight consensus modules

Next, we explored the gene expression patterns of the 8 consensus gene modules between the cancer and their corresponding normal samples (Figure 3). We observed much clearer distinct differences in expression patterns between CC and normal cervical samples comparing to the differences between HNC and their corresponding normal head and neck samples. The genes in the 8 consensus modules are shown in Table 1 and Supplementary Table 1.

Gene expression patterns of consensus modules in HNC and CC.

Figure 3: Gene expression patterns of consensus modules in HNC and CC. The expression patterns of genes in the consensus modules of HNC and CC samples are shown. The vertical and horizontal axes of heat map represent gene expressions and samples, respectively.

Table 1: Gene lists of eight consensus modules

Brown

Yellow

Blue

Turquoise

Green

Red

Black

Pink

LRRN4CL

TRIM40

CDC42SE2

KRT78

KLF7

TMEM72

TYMS

HYDIN2

NAV3

HOXC12

CNOT6L

LRRC43

STAT1

LOC285300

LOC375196

CCDC26

STMN1

MGC20647

FLJ31715

ATP6V1C2

CTSC

TP53BP1

DHFR

C18orf20

CACYBP

C21orf15

OSGIN2

C1orf177

CTSL1

F11

DHFR.2

OLFM3

DHFR

NFYC

EME2

C5orf28

SLC16A1

KDM5B

STIM1

C9orf68

SMAD2

LOC338694

RPAP3

CTNND1

CDKN2A

ACAA2

RNASEH2A

OR2C3

CDK1

CHML

LOC283888

RABEPK

CFB

TAOK2

RFC5

RNASET2

FAIM2

C6orf174

NEDD1

GBP6

IFI27

RAB3A

CDC45

C10orf44

MAPT

C9orf29

KIAA1543

HCG22

PLSCR1

SLC14A1

CLUAP1

LOC729870

ZWINT

KRT79

CBX3

LOC441178

PLOD2

INS

NFE2L3

RNF103

HSD11B2

SLC39A6

GNG10

TRIP10

LTBP1

IFNW1

MLF1

SAMD5

PDE2A

DGCR2

MED13

HOPX

LAMA3

PSG4

CXCL13

BHLHB9

PMAIP1

FAM20B

TNFAIP3

C9orf169

LOX

CLDN6

SYNGR3

DDX19A

ACOX2

SMAD2

IL8

TCP11L2

LDOC1

SELPLG

RIBC2

MLEC

BRCA1

SLC13A2

BCAS2

FMN1

MMP1

FAM120A

SYCP2

MLF1

NEK2

DAPK3

KIF2A

EMP1

HOMER3

PBX2

HOXC6

ZNF135

ABCA8

CA12

NFIL3

SOX4

HLF

PATZ1

ATP4A

ARMCX4

TGFBR3

ST3GAL2

NDST2

IFI30

PLAU

IGHA

CBX5

PDIA4

CKM

PRIM2

SLC43A1

FARP1

ISG15

POU2F2

NEDD4L

KCNK2

TTK

HSPB2

GAS1

MTMR3

MMP10

FSHB

OLFM1

RGSL1

PLK4

HOXD3

RECQL

LYN

PLA2G7

CYP11B2

APITD1

GABARAPL3

CLEC3B

ALOX15B

TMEFF1

ITPR2

PAK2

PVT1

HSP90AA1

C1orf216

PHYHIP

GCKR

SNX4

AKAP2

APOL1

KIR2DL1

IPO9

RAB7A

CCL14

FOXE1

CASK

C1QB

NCF2

KLF11

DTL

OR2J3

Twentyfour genes for each module were shown in the table and the order is insignificant.

Annotation of gene ontology (GO) terms and KEGG pathways of eight consensus modules

Table 2 shows the annotation of the genes in the 8 consensus modules using GO terms and KEGG pathways with DAVID gene annotation tool (http://david.abcc.ncifcrf.gov/). We determined the P-values (modified Fisher exact p-value) and the Benjamini-Hochberg false discovery rate (FDR) to determine the significance of enrichment of the annotated terms. Red and black modules represent the key GO terms and KEGG pathways with significant Benjamini adjusted P-values (Table 2). These two modules were clearly distinct and showed high connectivity (red = 0.963, black = 0.920; Figure 2B2C).

Table 2: KEGG pathways and GO terms of identified consensus modules for head and neck cancer and cervical cancer

Module

Enriched terms associated with gene list in module

Category

P-value*

Benjamini**

Brown

Fanconi anemia pathway
Cell cycle

KEGG-pathway

1.6E-3
2.0E-2

1.1E-1
5.1E-1

ATP binding
cytoplasm

GOTERM

4.4E-4
1.6E-3

3.6E-2
1.3E-1

Yellow

anterior/posterior pattern specification
negative regulation of glucokinase activity
regulation of neuronal synaptic plasticity

GOTERM

1.8E-3
1.8E-2
4.8E-2

4.4E-1
9.4E-1
9.9E-1

Blue

nucleus
endocytosis
regulation of transcription, DNA-templated
catalytic step 2 spliceosome

GOTERM

2.3E-3
4.0E-3
4.4E-3
4.6E-3

1.6E-1
6.4E-1
4.3E-1

1.6E-1

Hedgehog signaling pathway

KEGG-pathway

9.8E-2

9.9E-1

Turquoise

Serotonergic synapse
Insulin signaling pathway
Oocyte meiosis
Rap1 signaling pathway
Long-term depression

KEGG-pathway

3.4E-3
7.3E-3
2.3E-2
3.0E-2
4.5E-2

4.1E-1
4.3E-1
7.0E-1
6.9E-1
7.6E-1

extracellular exosome

GOTERM

8.5E-5

1.4E-2

Green

Herpes simplex infection
Pathways in cancer

KEGG-pathway

2.2E-2
3.9E-2

8.0E-1
7.6E-1

type I interferon signaling pathway
defense response to virus

GOTERM

2.5E-5
7.7E-5

6.5E-5
1.5E-2

Red

Antigen processing and presentation
Natural killer cell mediated cytotoxicity
Cell adhesion molecules (CAMs)

KEGG-pathway

6.3E-11
2.9E-9
8.0E-2

3.3E-9
7.8E-8
7.7E-1

regulation of immune response
immune response

GOTERM

7.2E-4
2.2E-2

2.0E-1
9.7E-1

Black

GOTERM_

6.4E-6

1.2E-3

regulation of transcription involved in G1/S transition of mitotic cell cycle
G1/S transition of mitotic cell cycle
DNA replication
tetrahydrofolate metabolic process

5.7E-4
2.0E-3
1.6E-2

5.4E-2
1.2E-1
5.4E-1

One carbon pool by folate
DNA replication

KEGG-pathway

3.4E-2
6.1E-2

5.7E-1
5.3E-1

Pink

melanosome membrane
autophagosome membrane

GOTERM

1.6E-2
3.8E-2

6.8E-1

7.4E-1

*P-value: modified Fisher Exact p-value, **Benjamini: Benjamini-Hochberg false discovery rate (FDR) adjusted p-value.

DISCUSSION

Although single-target drugs inhibit or activate a specific target, their effects may be sub-optimal because of compensatory mechanisms [1417]. Therefore, multi-target dugs are preferred to deal with the complexity of diseases [14, 1618]. Cancer cell types are commonly classified by histopathology as well as molecular characteristics like gene expression, mutations, copy number variations and epigenetic alterations. These molecular characteristics help identify cancer-type and stage-specific prognostic biomarkers. In comparison to cancer type-specific biomarkers, multi-cancer biomarkers are more precise and accurate in research and clinic [11].

Previously, various specific biomarkers have been described for HNC or CC [19, 20]. However, consensus biomarkers are not well known for HNC and CC. Therefore, we investigated the various consensus gene modules in HNC and CC. We identified 8 consensus gene modules that showed differential expression patterns between cancer and normal samples in both types of cancers. Each module contained common genes that were important in HNC and CC. For example, SMAD2 that was included in the brown module correlated with poor prognosis in oral SCC [21] as well as cell cycle regulation and epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) in CC [22]. Moreover, well known molecular biomarkers of HNC such as IL8, MMP1, and MMP10 [20] were included in the blue and green modules (Supplementary Table 1). Some of the genes in the modules are well known in various cancers, but have not been fully investigated in HNC or CC. For example, CACYBP in the brown module correlates with proliferation and metastasis in colon cancer [23, 24] as well as drug resistance in pancreatic cancer [25]. The modules also contained genes like LRRN4CL, NAV3 and STMN1 that have not yet been investigated in cancer research. Functional studies of these genes, which are not well known in HNC and CC will potentially reveal novel molecular mechanisms for both cancers and identify new molecular targets for the diagnosis and treatment.

We also explored the biological functions of each module by GO terms and KEGG pathway annotation. GO terms such as cancer initiation and progression, chemotherapy, cell cycle, immune response, tetrahydrofolate metabolic process and cell adhesion molecules were included in the red and black modules. Functional enrichment analysis identified cancer cell migration, invasion and survival as common pathways.

In the brown module, ATP binding was a significant term with many ATP binding-associated genes like NIMA related kinase 2 (NEK2). NEK2 regulates centrosome separation by phosphorylating centrosomal proteins [2628]. Aberrant NEK2 activity has been investigated in various malignancies [2931] including CC [32, 33] and HNC [34]. In the turquoise module, extracellular exosome was identified as a significant term. Extracellular exosome is an organelle that contributes to intercellular communication and is produced by all cell types [35, 36]. It is implicated in the progression of various cancers, including brain and head and neck cancer [3740]. The turquoise module included 33 extracellular exosome associated genes. These included LYN, a member of the SRC family of protein tyrosine kinases. Lyn is a key mediator of cell proliferation, migration and invasion in CC [41] and HNC [42].

The type I interferon (IFN) signaling pathway, which is involved in the antiviral response [43], host immunity [44] and cytotoxicity [45] was a significant term of the green module. IFNs belong to a family of multifunctional cytokines that activate (Janus Kinases)/STAT (Signal Transducer and Activator of Transcription) signaling pathway [46, 47], which up-regulates IFN-stimulated genes (ISG) [48]. ISG15 was localized in the green module [49].

A limitation of this study is that we used genes with significantly different expression patterns between cancer and normal samples for identifying consensus module. In future studies, we plan to pursue the whole gene set to identify the consensus modules that will also include similarly expressed genes with aberrant function due to mutations. Future studies will also include the validation of the identified gene modules using other cancer types.

In conclusion, we identified consensus gene modules of HNC and CC to identify common targets for multicancer therapy, especially for cancers that are HPV16-positive. The modules included genes that are involved in significant biological functions associated with cancer progression.

MATERIALS AND METHODS

Gene expression dataset analysis

We used a publicly available gene expression dataset (GSE6791) [50] that included 42 head and neck cancer, 14 normal head and neck, 20 cervical cancer and 8 normal cervix tissue samples. The HPV types in these cancer samples were HPV16, HPV18, HPV33, HPV31, HPV35, HPV55 and HPV66. We analyzed HPV16-positive samples only to exclude bias due to different HPV types. The dataset is summarized in Table 3.

Table 3: Summary of the dataset used in this work

Dataset

Platform

Number of
samples and probes

Number of HPV16 positivesamples

GSE6791 [14]

HG-U133Plus2

42 HNC, 14 normal tissues of head and neck,20 CC, 8 normal tissues of cervix, 54675 probes

13 HNC, 8 CC

*HNC: Head and neck cancer; CC: Cervical cancer; HPV: Human papilloma virus.

Statistical analysis

Mann–Whitney U test was performed to determine the differently expressed genes in HNC and CC cancer samples in relation to their corresponding controls. After identifying the differentially expressed genes in HNC and CC, hierarchical clustering analysis was performed to construct different modules, as described previously [7, 12]. Principal component analysis (PCA) was used to identify the eigengene of each cluster or module. All statistical analyses were conducted using Rversion 3.3.1 software package including packages for consensus module detection.

Consensus module construction

Gene modules refer to genes that show similar expression patterns in cancer cells or tissues in comparison to normal cells or tissues. Consensus modules refer to modules that are similar in multiple cancers. Hierarchical clustering according to a measure of dissimilarity is used to group genes with similar expression profiles into modules [12]. We used average linkage hierarchical clustering with consensus dissimilarity measure and defined modules as branches of a tree [7, 51]. For cut-off branches, we used a fixed height cut-off value of 0.95. The modules contained a minimum number of genes (25 genes per module in this study).We identified modules in a multistep process [7]. First, we performed hierarchical clustering based on consensus dissimilarity measure. Then, the cluster tree was cut at a fixed height cut-off value. Each branch was considered a separate module. Genes that were not assigned to any branch or module were denoted in grey.

Construction of the eigengenes network

We performed principal component analysis (PCA) to identify eigengenes in the consensus gene modules. PCA is a nonparametric statistical method that reduces data dimensionality and converts correlated variables into uncorrelated variables called principal components [52, 53]. We calculated principal components of each gene module. The first principal component is called an eigengene and represents the module. Each principal component is represented in the form of linear combinations of gene expressions in the module according to the following formula:

where g1, g2, g3… gn are gene expressions, and C1, C2, C3…Cn are weights of each gene expression.

Module preservation and biological validation of modules

Module preservation statistics were used to evaluate if a module defined in one data set was also present in another data set. The preservation among modules was evaluated by the correlation of eigengenes of each module [51]. The preservation of eigengenes between the ith and jthconsensus modules in data sets A and B were calculated as

where and denote the eigengenes of the ithconsensus module in data sets A and B, respectively; cor(X,Y) represents correlation coefficient of X and Y.

High values indicate strong preservation between the ithand jthconsensus modules across the two data sets. The preservation statistic is maximized when the correlation of the ithand jthconsensus modules in data set A is the same as in data set B. For biological validation, we used the KEGG pathways to determine the consensus biological terms that were associated with the gene lists in modules [54].

Abbreviations

SCC: Squamous cell carcinoma; HPV16: Human papillomavirus type 16; PCA: principal component analysis; HNC: head neck cancer; CC: cervical cancer; GO: gene ontology; FDR: false discovery rate; NEK2: NIMA related kinase 2; IFN: interferon; STAT: Signal Transducer and Activator of Transcription; ISG: IFN-stimulated genes.

Author contributions

K-Y Kim conceptualized and designed this study; X. Zhang and K-Y Kim developed the methodology; X. Zhang, I-H Cha and K-Y Kim analyzed and interpreted the data as well as wrote, reviewed and revised the manuscript; X. Zhang and K-Y Kim supervised the study.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS AND FUNDING

This work was supported by Basic Science Research Program through the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) funded by the Ministry of Education (NRF-2016R1D1A1B03934112, NRF-2017R1D1A1B03034921 and NRF-2016R1D1A1B03934296), and by a grant from National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC, No. 81460408).

CONFLICTS OF INTEREST

All authors declare that there are no conflicts of interest.

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