Identification of a novel six autophagy-related genes signature for the prognostic and a miRNA-related autophagy predictor for anti-PD-1 therapy responses in prostate cancer

BMC Cancer. 2021 Jan 5;21(1):15. doi: 10.1186/s12885-020-07725-0.


Background: Autophagy is a highly conserved homeostatic process in the human body that is responsible for the elimination of aggregated proteins and damaged organelles. Several autophagy-related genes (ARGs) contribute to the process of tumorigenesis and metastasis of prostate cancer (PCa). Also, miRNAs have been proven to modulate autophagy by targeting some ARGs. However, their potential role in PCa still remains unclear.

Methods: An univariate Cox proportional regression model was used to identify 17 ARGs associated with the overall survival (OS) of PCa. Then, a multivariate Cox proportional regression model was used to construct a 6 autophagy-related prognostic genes signature. Patients were divided into low-risk group and high-risk group using the median risk score as a cutoff value. High-risk patients had shorter OS than low-risk patients. Furthermore, the signature was validated by ROC curves. Regarding mRNA and miRNA, 12 differentially expressed miRNAs (DEMs) and 1073 differentially expressed genes (DEGs) were detected via the GEO database. We found that miR-205, one of the DEMs, was negatively regulated the expression of ARG (NKX2-3). Based on STRING analysis results, we found that the NKX2-3 was moderately related to the part of genes among the 6 autophagy-related genes prognostic signature. Further, NKX 2-3 was significantly correlated with OS and some clinical parameters of PCa by cBioProtal. By gene set enrichment analysis (GSEA). Lastly, we demonstrated that the association between NKX2-3 and tumor mutation burden (TMB) and PDCD1 (programmed cell death 1) of PCa.

Results: We identified that the six ARGs expression patterns are independent predictors of OS in PCa patients. Furthermore, our results suggest that ARGs and miRNAs are inter-related. MiR-205 was negatively regulated the expression of ARG (NKX2-3). Further analysis demonstrated that NKX2-3 may be a potential biomarker for predicting the efficacy of anti-PD-1 therapy in PCa.

Conclusions: The current study may offer a novel autophagy-related prognostic signature and may identify a promising miRNA-ARG pathway for predicting the efficacy of anti-PD-1 therapy in PCa.

Keywords: Autophagy; PD-1; Prostate cancer; miRNA.

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents, Immunological / therapeutic use*
  • Autophagy*
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / genetics*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Gene Regulatory Networks
  • Humans
  • Male
  • MicroRNAs / genetics*
  • Prognosis
  • Programmed Cell Death 1 Receptor / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / genetics
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / pathology*
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism*
  • Survival Rate
  • Transcriptome


  • Antineoplastic Agents, Immunological
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • MicroRNAs
  • PDCD1 protein, human
  • Programmed Cell Death 1 Receptor
  • RNA, Messenger