Background: Pancreatic cancer (PC) is one of the most lethal solid malignancies in the world due to its excessive cell proliferation and aggressive metastatic features. Emerging evidences revealed the importance of posttranscriptional modifications of RNAs in PC progression. However, knowledge about the 5-methylcytosine (m5C) RNA modification in PC is still extremely limited. In this study, we attempted to explore the expression changes and clinical significances of 12 known m5C-related genes among PC patients.
Methods: A total of 362 normal and 382 tumor specimens from PC patients were examined for candidate m5C-related gene and protein expression by using quantitative PCR (qPCR) and immunohistochemistry (IHC). The proliferation rate of PC cells was detected by MTS assay. Xenograft mouse models were used to assess the role of NSUN6 in PC tumor formation.
Findings: Through analyzing the four Gene Expression Omnibus (GEO) databases, six m5C-related genes shown significant and consistent alterations were selected for further examination in our 3 independent PC cohorts. Finally, we identified the reduction of NSUN6 as a common feature of all PC sample sets examined. NSUN6 expression correlated with clinicopathologic parameters including T stage, and Ki67+ cell rate. Further assessing the transcriptional profiles of 50 PC tissues, we found biological processes associated with cell proliferation like cell cycle and G2M checkpoint were enriched in NSUN6 lower expression group. Helped by in vitro PC cell lines and in vivo xenograft mouse models, we confirmed the role of NSUN6 in regulating cell proliferation and PC tumor growth. Last but also importantly, we also show the good performance of NSUN6 in evaluating tumor recurrence and survival among PC patients.
Interpretation: Our data suggested that NSUN6 is an important factor involved in regulating cell proliferation of PC, and highlights the potential of novel m5C-based clinical modalities as a therapeutic approach in PC patients.
Funding: This study was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant Nos. 81803014, 81802424, and 81802911).
Keywords: 5-methylcytosine; Cell proliferation; NSUN6; Pancreatic cancer.
Copyright © 2020 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.