The Human Cytomegalovirus US31 Gene Predicts Favorable Survival and Regulates the Tumor Microenvironment in Gastric Cancer

Front Oncol. 2021 Apr 20;11:614925. doi: 10.3389/fonc.2021.614925. eCollection 2021.


Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) is an oncogenic virus associated with tumorigenesis. Our previous study revealed that the HCMV US31 gene interacted with NF-κB2 and mediated inflammation through macrophages. However, there are few reports on the role of US31 in gastric cancer (GC). The aim of this study was to investigate the expression of the US31 gene in GC tissue and assess its role in the occurrence and development of GC. US31 expression in 573 cancer tissues was analyzed using immunohistochemistry. Results showed that US31 was significantly associated with tumor size (P = 0.005) and distant metastasis (P < 0.001). Higher US31 expression indicated better overall survival in GC patients. Overexpression of US31 significantly inhibited the proliferation, migration, and invasion of GC cells in vitro (P < 0.05). Furthermore, expression levels of CD4, CD66b, and CD166 were positively correlated with US31, suggesting that it was involved in regulating the tumor immune microenvironment of GC. RNA sequencing, along with quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction, confirmed that the expression of US31 promoted immune activation and secretion of inflammatory cytokines. Overall, US31 inhibited the malignant phenotype and regulated tumor immune cell infiltration in GC; these results suggest that US31 could be a potential prognostic factor for GC and may open the door for a new immunotherapy strategy.

Keywords: US31; gastric cancer; human cytomegalovirus; prognostic factor; tumor immune microenvironment.