The molecular mechanism of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)-associated gastric cancer (EBVaGC) remains elusive. A collection of molecular regulators including transcription factor and noncoding RNA (ncRNAs) may affect the carcinogenesis of EBVaGC by regulating the expression and function of key genes. In this study, integration of multi-level expression data and bioinformatics approach was used to identify key elements and their interactions involved in mechanism of EBVaGC and their network regulation.
Data of the gene expression profiling data sets (GSE51575) was downloaded from GEO database. Differentially expressed genes between EBVaGC and normal samples were identified by GEO2R. Gene ontology and pathway enrichment analyses were performed using R packages Cluster profiler. STRING database was used to find interacting proteins between different genes. Transcription factors in differentially expressed genes were obtained from TF Checkpoint database. Using Cytoscape, we built transcription factor regulation network. miRNAs involved in the gene-interacting proteins and the miRNA-targeted lncRNA were predicted through miRWalk. Using ViRBase, EBV related miRNA regulation network was built. Overlapping genes and regulators of the above three networks were further identified, and the cross network was constructed using Cytoscape software. Moreover, the differential expressions of the target genes and transcription factors in the cross network were explored in different molecular subtypes of GC using cBioPortal. By histological verification, the expression of two main target genes in the cross network were further analyzed.
A total of 104 genes showed differential expressions between EBVaGC and normal tissues, which were associated with digestion, G-protein coupled receptor binding, gastric acid secretion, etc. Pathway analysis showed that the differentially expressed genes were mainly enriched in gastric acid secretion and protein digestion and absorption. Using STRING dataset, a total of 54 proteins interacted with each other. Based on the transcription factor network, the hub transcription factors IRX3, NKX6-2, PTGER3 and SMAD5 were identified to regulate their target genes SST and GDF5, etc. After screening and matching in miRwalk datasets, a ceRNA network was established, in which the top five miRNAs were hsa-miR-4446-3p, hsa-miR-5787, hsa-miR-1915-3p, hsa-miR-335-3p and hsa-miR-6877-3p, and the top two lncRNAs were RP5-1039K5.19 and TP73-AS1. According to the EBV related miRNA regulation network, CXCL10 and SMAD5 were found to be regulated by EBV-miR-BART1-3p and EBV-mir-BART22, respectively. By overlapping the three networks, CXCL10, GDF5, PTGER3, SMAD5, miR-6877-3p, RP5-1039K5.19, TP73-AS1, EBV-miR-BART1-3p and EBV-mir-BART22 were found to be key elements of regulation mechanism of EBVaGC. CXCL10, GDF5, PTGER3 and SMAD5 were also differentially expressed among the four molecular subtypes of GC. The histological verification experiment showed differential expressions of the two main target genes GDF5 and CXCL10 between EBVaGC and non-tumor tissues as well as EBVnGC.
In the current study, our results revealed key elements and their interactions involved in EBVaGC. Some hub transcription factors, miRNAs, lncRNAs and EBV related miRNAs were observed to regulate their target genes. Overlapping genes and regulators were observed in diverse regulation networks, such as CXCL10, GDF5, PTGER3, SMAD5, miR-6877-3p, RP5-1039K5.19, TP73-AS1, EBV-miR-BART1-3p and EBV-mir-BART22. Moreover, CXCL10, GDF5, PTGER3 and SMAD5 were also differentially expressed among the four molecular subtypes of GC. The histological verification experiment showed differential expressions of the two main target genes GDF5 and CXCL10 between EBVaGC and non-tumor tissues as well as EBVnGC. Therefore, the identified key elements and their network regulation may be specifically involved in EBVaGC mechanisms.