Identification of a Ferroptosis-Related Signature Model Including mRNAs and lncRNAs for Predicting Prognosis and Immune Activity in Hepatocellular Carcinoma

Front Oncol. 2021 Sep 9;11:738477. doi: 10.3389/fonc.2021.738477. eCollection 2021.


Background: Ferroptosis is a novel form of regulated cell death involved in tumor progression. The role of ferroptosis-related lncRNAs in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) remains unclear.

Methods: RNA-seq and clinical data for HCC patients were downloaded from The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) Genomic Data Commons (GDC) portal. Bioinformatics methods, including weighted gene coexpression network analysis (WGCNA), Cox regression, and least absolute shrinkage and selection operator (LASSO) analysis, were used to identify signature markers for diagnosis/prognosis. The tumor microenvironment, immune infiltration and functional enrichment were compared between the low-risk and high-risk groups. Subsequently, small molecule drugs targeting ferroptosis-related signature components were predicted via the L1000FWD and PubChem databases.

Results: The prognostic model consisted of 2 ferroptosis-related mRNAs (SLC1A5 and SLC7A11) and 8 ferroptosis-related lncRNAs (AC245297.3, MYLK-AS1, NRAV, SREBF2-AS1, AL031985.3, ZFPM2-AS1, AC015908.3, MSC-AS1). The areas under the curves (AUCs) were 0.830 and 0.806 in the training and test groups, respectively. Decision curve analysis (DCA) revealed that the ferroptosis-related signature performed better than all pathological characteristics. Multivariate Cox regression analysis showed that the risk score was an independent prognostic factor. The survival probability of low- and high-risk patients could be clearly distinguished by the principal component analysis (PCA) plot. The risk score divided HCC patients into two distinct groups in terms of immune status, especially checkpoint gene expression, which was further supported by the Gene Ontology (GO) biological process, and Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes (KEGG) analysis. Finally, several small molecule drugs (SIB-1893, geldanamycin and PD-184352, etc) targeting ferroptosis-related signature components were identified for future reference.

Conclusion: We constructed a new ferroptosis-related mRNA/lncRNA signature for HCC patients. The model can be used for prognostic prediction and immune evaluation, providing a reference for immunotherapies and targeted therapies.

Keywords: LASSO regression analysis; ferroptosis-related mRNA and lncRNAs; hepatocellular carcinoma; immune infiltration; tumor microenvironment.