TCGA mRNA Expression Analysis of the Heme Biosynthesis Pathway in Diffusely Infiltrating Gliomas: A Comparison of Typically 5-ALA Fluorescent and Non-Fluorescent Gliomas

Cancers (Basel). 2020 Jul 24;12(8):2043. doi: 10.3390/cancers12082043.


5-Aminolevulinic acid (5-ALA) is a fluorescent dye that after metabolization to Protoporphyrin IX (PpIX) by the heme biosynthesis pathway typically leads to visible fluorescence in WHO grade IV but not grade II gliomas. The exact mechanism for high PpIX levels in WHO grade IV gliomas and low PpIX levels in WHO grade II gliomas is not fully clarified. To detect relevant changes in mRNA expression, we performed an in-silico analysis of WHO grade II and IV glioma sequencing datasets provided by The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) to investigate mRNA expression levels of relevant heme biosynthesis genes: Solute Carrier Family 15 Member 1 and 2 (SLC15A1 and SLC15A2), Aminolevulinate-Dehydratase (ALAD), Hydroxymethylbilane-Synthase (HMBS), Uroporphyrinogen-III-Synthase (UROS), Uroporphyrinogen-Decarboxylase (UROD), Coproporphyrinogen-Oxidase (CPOX), Protoporphyrinogen-Oxidase (PPOX), ATP-binding Cassette Subfamily B Member 6 (ABCB6)/G Member 2 (ABCG2) and Ferrochelatase (FECH). Altogether, 258 WHO grade II and 166 WHO grade IV samples were investigated. The mRNA expression levels showed significant differences in 8 of 11 examined genes between WHO grade II and IV gliomas. Significant differences in mRNA expression included increases of HMBS, UROD, FECH and PPOX as well as decreases of SLC15A2, ALAD, UROS and ABCB6 in WHO IV gliomas. Since the majority of changes was found in directions that might actually impair PpIX accumulation in WHO grade IV gliomas, additional studies are needed to analyze the corresponding factors of the heme biosynthesis also on protein level.

Keywords: 5-ALA; TCGA; fluorescence; gene expression; glioma; heme biosynthesis.