J Cancer 2021; 12(17):5286-5295. doi:10.7150/jca.56506 This issue

Research Paper

Identification of Hub Genes and Small Molecule Drugs Associated with Acquired Resistance to Gefitinib in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

Guangda Li1,2, Yunfei Ma1, Mingwei Yu1, Xiaoxiao Li1, Xinjie Chen2, Yu Gao2, Peiyu Cheng1, Ganlin Zhang1✉, Xiaomin Wang1✉

1. Beijing Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Capital Medical University, Beijing, China.
2. Beijing University of Chinese Medicine, Beijing, China.

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/). See http://ivyspring.com/terms for full terms and conditions.
Li G, Ma Y, Yu M, Li X, Chen X, Gao Y, Cheng P, Zhang G, Wang X. Identification of Hub Genes and Small Molecule Drugs Associated with Acquired Resistance to Gefitinib in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer. J Cancer 2021; 12(17):5286-5295. doi:10.7150/jca.56506. Available from https://www.jcancer.org/v12p5286.htm

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Graphic abstract

Targeting EGFR, epidermal growth factor receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitors (EGFR TKIs), brings lights to the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Although T790M mutation responded as one of the main reasons of acquired resistance, still 15% of the resistance patients can't be explained by the known mechanisms. The purpose of this research was to identify some new mechanisms of gefitinib acquired resistance, and to predict small molecules drugs which may reverse drug resistance by integrated bioinformatics analysis. The GSE34228 data package containing the microarray data of acquired gefitinib-resistant cell line (PC9GR) and gefitinib-sensitive cell line (PC9) from the GEO database were downloaded, and gene co-expression networks by weighted gene co-expression network analysis (WGCNA) were constructed to identified key modules and key genes related to gefitinib resistance. Furthermore, the significantly differentially expressed genes (DEGs) between the two cell types were screened out, and a protein-protein interaction (PPI) network to obtain the key genes of DEGs was accordingly constructed. Through the above two methods, 4 hub genes, PI3, S100A8, AXL and PNPLA4 were mined as the most relevant to gefitinib resistance. Among them, PI3, S100A8 were down-regulated in PC9GR cell samples, while AXL, PNPLA4 were up-regulated. The gene set enrichment analysis (GSEA) for single gene showed that the four hub genes were mainly correlated with cell proliferation and cycle. Besides, small molecule drugs with the potential to overcome resistance, such as Emetine and cephaeline, were screened by CMap database. Consistent with this, in vitro experiments results have shown that emetine and cephaeline can increase the sensitivity of drug-resistant cells to gefitinib, and the mechanism may be related to the regulation of PI3 and S100A8. In conclusion, 4 hub genes were found to be related to the occurrence of gefitinib resistance in non-small cell lung cancer, and several small molecule drugs were screened out as potential therapeutic agents to overcome gefitinib resistance, which may lead a new way for the treatment of NSCLC of acquired resistance to gefitinib.

Keywords: bioinformatics analysis, gefitinib resistance, non-small cell lung cancer, WGCNA, hub genes, GSEA.