Refereed journal article or data article (A1)

Network-Based Identification of Altered Stem Cell Pluripotency and Calcium Signaling Pathways in Metastatic Melanoma

List of Authors: Ben-Hur Neves de Oliveira, Carla Dalmaz, Fares Zeidán-Chuliá

Publisher: M D P I AG

Publication year: 2018

Journal: Medical Sciences

Volume number: 6

Issue number: 1



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Malignancy of cancer has been linked to distinct subsets of stem-like cells, the so-called cancer stem cells (CSCs), which persist during treatment and seem to lead to drug-resistant recurrence. Metastatic spread of cancer cells is one of the hallmarks of malignancy and contributes to most human melanoma-related deaths. Recently, overlapping groups of proteins and pathways were shown to regulate stem cell migration and cancer metastasis, raising the question of whether genes/proteins involved in stem cell pluripotency may have important implications when applied to the biology of cancer metastasis. Furthermore, it is well known that ion channels and receptors, particularly those responsible for calcium (Ca2+) signal generation, are critical in determining the cellular fate of stem cells (SCs). In the present study, we searched for evidence of altered stem cell pluripotency and Ca2+ signaling-related genes in the context of melanoma metastasis. We did this by using network analysis of gene expression in tissue biopsies from three different independent datasets of patients. First, we created an in silico network model (“STEMCa” interactome) showing the landscape of interactions between stem cell pluripotency and Ca2+ signaling-related genes/proteins, and demonstrated that around 51% (151 out of 294) of the genes within this model displayed significant changes of expression (False Discovery Rate (FDR), corrected p-value < 0.05) in at least one of the datasets of melanoma metastasis when compared with primary tumor biopsies (controls). Analysis of the properties (degree and betweenness) of the topological network revealed 27 members as the most central hub (HB) and nonhub-bottlenecks (NH-B) among the 294 genes/proteins of the whole interactome. From those representative genes, CTNNB1, GNAQ, GSK3B, GSTP1, MAPK3, PPP1CC, PRKACA, and SMAD4 showed equal up- or downregulation (corrected p-value < 0.05) in at least 2 independent datasets of melanoma metastases samples and PTPN11 showed upregulation (corrected p-value < 0.05) in three of them when compared with control samples. We postulate that altered expression of stem cell pluripotency and Ca2+ signaling pathway-related genes may contribute to the metastatic transformation, with these central members being an optimal candidate group of biomarkers and in silico therapeutic targets for melanoma metastasis, which deserve further investigation.

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