Establishment of a Necroptosis-Related Prognostic Signature to Reveal Immune Infiltration and Predict Drug Sensitivity in Hepatocellular Carcinoma

Front Genet. 2022 Jul 25;13:900713. doi: 10.3389/fgene.2022.900713. eCollection 2022.


Background: Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is a common type of primary liver cancer and has a poor prognosis. In recent times, necroptosis has been reported to be involved in the progression of multiple cancers. However, the role of necroptosis in HCC prognosis remains elusive. Methods: The RNA-seq data and clinical information of HCC patients were downloaded from The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) and International Cancer Genome Consortium (ICGC) databases. Differentially expressed genes (DEGs) and prognosis-related genes were explored, and the nonnegative matrix factorization (NMF) clustering algorithm was applied to divide HCC patients into different subtypes. Based on the prognosis-related DEGs, univariate Cox and LASSO Cox regression analyses were used to construct a necroptosis-related prognostic model. The relationship between the prognostic model and immune cell infiltration, tumor mutational burden (TMB), and drug response were explored. Results: In this study, 13 prognosis-related DEGs were confirmed from 18 DEGs and 24 prognostic-related genes. Based on the prognosis-related DEGs, patients in the TCGA cohort were clustered into three subtypes by the NMF algorithm, and patients in C3 had better survival. A necroptosis-related prognostic model was established according to LASSO analysis, and HCC patients in TCGA and ICGC were divided into high- and low-risk groups. Kaplan-Meier (K-M) survival analysis revealed that patients in the high-risk group had a shorter survival time compared to those in the low-risk group. Using univariate and multivariate Cox analyses, the prognostic model was identified as an independent prognostic factor and had better survival predictive ability in HCC patients compared with other clinical biomarkers. Furthermore, the results revealed that the high-risk patients had higher stromal, immune, and ESTIMATE scores; higher TP53 mutation rate; higher TMB; and lower tumor purities compared to those in the low-risk group. In addition, there were significant differences in predicting the drug response between the high- and low-risk groups. The protein and mRNA levels of these prognostic genes were upregulated in HCC tissues compared to normal liver tissues. Conclusion: We established a necroptosis-related prognostic signature that may provide guidance for individualized drug therapy in HCC patients; however, further experimentation is needed to validate our results.

Keywords: chemosensitivity; hepatocellular carcinoma; immune microenvironment; necroptosis; prognostic.