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Association of high-risk neuroblastoma classification based on expression profiles with differentiation and metabolism

Shunsuke Kimura, Masahiro Sekiguchi, Kentaro Watanabe, Mitsuteru Hiwatarai, Masafumi Seki, Kenichi Yoshida, Tomoya Isobe, Yusuke Shiozawa, Hiromichi Suzuki, Noriko Hoshino, Yasuhide Hayashi, Akira Oka, , Seishi Ogawa,
Published: 19 January 2021
PLOS ONE , Volume 16; doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0245526

Abstract: Neuroblastoma, the most common extracranial solid malignancy among children, originates from undifferentiated neural crest cells (NCC). Despite recent intensified treatment, high-risk patients still have a high mortality rate. To explore a new therapeutic strategy, we performed an integrated genomic and transcriptomic analysis of 30 high-risk neuroblastoma cases. Based on the expression profiling of RNA sequencing, neuroblastoma was classified into Mesenchymal (MES; n = 5) and Noradrenergic (ADRN; n = 25) clusters, as previously reported in the super-enhancer landscape. The expression patterns in MES-cluster cases were similar to normal adrenal glands, with enrichment in secretion-related pathways, suggesting chromaffin cell-like features built from NCC-derived Schwann cell precursors (SCPs). In contrast, neuron-related pathways were enriched in the ADRN-cluster, indicating sympathoblast features reported to originate from NCC but not via SCPs. Thus, MES- and ADRN-clusters were assumed to be corresponding to differentiation pathways through SCP and sympathoblast, respectively. ADRN-cluster cases were further classified into MYCN- and ATRX-clusters, characterized by genetic alterations, MYCN amplifications and ATRX alterations, respectively. MYCN-cluster cases showed high expression of ALDH18A1, encoding P5CS related to proline production. As reported in other cancers, this might cause reprogramming of proline metabolism leading to tumor specific proline vulnerability candidate for a target therapy of metabolic pathway. In ATRX-cluster, SLC18A2 (VMAT2), an enzyme known to prevent cell toxicity due to the oxidation of dopamine, was highly expressed and VMAT2 inhibitor (GZ-793A) represented significant attenuation of cell growth in NB-69 cell line (high SLC18A2 expression, no MYCN amplification) but not in IMR-32 cell line (MYCN amplification). In addition, the correlation of VMAT2 expression with metaiodobenzylguanidine (MIBG) avidity suggested a combination of VMAT2 inhibitor and MIBG radiation for a novel potential therapeutic strategy in ATRX-cluster cases. Thus, targeting the characteristics of unique neuroblastomas may prospectively improve prognosis.
Keywords: gene expression / cell differentiation / rna sequencing / neuroblastoma / malignant tumors / proline / Human genomics / Adrenal glands

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