Analyzing the prognostic value of DKK1 expression in human cancers based on bioinformatics

Bladder Cancer

Wei R, et al. Ann Transl Med 2020.


BACKGROUND: The Dickkopf1 (DKK1) gene encodes a protein that belongs to the Dickkopf family. The protein can inhibit the Wnt signaling pathway which plays a key role in the carcinogenesis and progression of various types of cancers. Based on this, we hypothesized that the differential expression of DKK1 may figure significantly in cancers by regulating Wnt signaling pathway transduction. In this study, we conducted bioinformatics analysis to evaluate the prognostic and therapeutic value of DKK1 expression level in human cancers.

METHODS: The expression level was analyzed by using the Oncomine database and Gene Expression Profiling Interactive Analysis tool. The analysis of prognosis was conducted by using the UALCAN, Gene Expression Profiling Interactive Analysis (GEPIA), and DriverDBv3 databases. We also investigated using DKK1 promoter methylation to define cancer types through the UALCAN database. Meanwhile, the related functional networks of DKK1 were analyzed by using the GeneMANIA interactive tool and Cytoscape software. Furthermore, Gene Ontology and Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes pathway analysis was conducted using the Metascape online website, and we used the cBioPotartal database to explored DKK1 expression, aberrant information, and the co-expression genes in the subgroups of lung cancer. Finally, we performed the overall survival (OS) meta-analysis of the DKK1 expression in lung squamous cell carcinoma (LUSC) via the Lung Cancer Explorer (LCE).

RESULTS: DKK1 was differentially expressed in different types of human cancers. DKK1 was overexpressed in human cancers including head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSC), LUSC, and pancreatic adenocarcinoma (PAAD). Overexpression of DKK1 indicated adverse OS in bladder urothelial carcinoma (BLCA), HNSC, and PADD, but no difference in OS was found between the LUSC and healthy groups. The high expression of DKK1 was also associated with shorter disease-free survival (DFS) in HNSC, LUSC, and PAAD. Gene regulation network analysis indicated that DKK1 was mainly involved in Wnt signaling pathways and several other signaling pathways.

CONCLUSIONS: Our findings showed that DKK1 is significantly expressed in various cancers and could be a biomarker for targeted therapy and a predictor for prognosis of these specific cancers. The bioinformatics analysis revealed a significant overexpression of DKK1 in HNSC, LUSC, and PAAD, with DKK1 overexpression being associated with adverse outcome in these patients, but how DKK1 expression levels relate to hematological malignancies and prognosis is still unclear. These new insights into the

function of DKK1 may provide a basis for new targeted drug therapy and an avenue for further investigation into the mechanisms underlying carcinogenesis of DKK1 in different cancer types.