Transcription levels and prognostic significance of the NFI family members in human cancers

PeerJ. 2020 Mar 18;8:e8816. doi: 10.7717/peerj.8816. eCollection 2020.


Background: The nuclear factor I (NFI) is a family of transcription factors consisting of four distinct but closely related genes, NFIA, NFIB, NFIC and NFIX, which are important in the development of various tissues and organs in mammals. Recent study results have shown that NFI family may play a critical role in the progression of various human tumors and have been identified as key tumor suppressors and oncogenes for many cancers. However, the expression levels and distinctive prognostic values of the NFI family remain poorly explored in most cancers.

Materials and methods: In the present study, the differences in mRNA expression of the NFI family in various cancers were investigated using the Oncomine and TCGA databases, and the mRNA expression, genetic alteration and DNA methylation of the NFI family members in various cancers were examined using cBioPortal for Cancer Genomics. In addition, the prognostic significance of the NFI family was assessed in multiple cancers using the Kaplan-Meier plotter (KM plotter) and SurvExpress databases.

Results: The mRNA expression levels in the NFI family were significantly downregulated in most cancers compared with normal tissues and DNA hypermethylation might downregulate the NFI family expression. Although NFIX expression was not downregulated in kidney, colorectal and prostate cancers. Furthermore, NFIB expression was upregulated in gastric cancer. Further survival analyses based on the KM plotter and SurvExpress databases showed dysregulations of the NFI genes were significantly correlated with survival outcomes in breast, lung, and head and neck cancers. Decreased expression levels of NFIA, NFIB and NFIC were associated with poor overall survival (OS) in head and neck cancer. Low mRNA expression of NFIA and NFIB was significantly associated with OS and first progression in lung adenocarcinoma, but not in lung squamous cell carcinoma. In addition, potential correlations between NFI family members and survival outcomes were also observed in liver, esophageal, kidney and cervical cancer.

Conclusion: The results from the present study indicated certain members of the NFI family could be promising therapeutic targets and novel prognostic biomarkers for human cancers.

Keywords: Biomarker; Human cancers; Methylation; NFI; Oncomine; TCGA.

Grant support

This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 81472806). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.