The role of immune-related genes (IRGs) in thyroid cancer dedifferentiation and accompanying immune exhaustion remains largely unexplored.To construct a significant IRG-based signature indicative of dedifferentiation and immune exhaustion in thyroid cancer.One exploratory cohort and two validation cohorts were used to identify stably dysregulated IRGs in dedifferentiated thyroid cancer (DDTC) and to obtain independent risk factors for dedifferentiation. The IRGs formed a gene signature, whose predictive value was tested by the receiver operating characteristic curve. Correlations between the signature and differentiation-related genes, immune checkpoints, and prognosis were analyzed. Gene set enrichment analyses were performed to identify related signaling pathways.Four IRGs, PRKCQ, PLAUR, PSMD2, and BMP7, were found to be repeatedly dysregulated in DDTC, and they formed an IRG-based signature with a satisfactory predictive value for thyroid cancer dedifferentiation. Correlation analyses revealed that immune checkpoints were closely related to the four IRGs and the IRG-based signature, which was significantly associated with the histological subtype (P = 0.026), lymph node metastasis (P = 0.001) and BRAFV600E mutation (P < 0.001). The downregulated expression of PRKCQ shortened the disease-free survival for patients with thyroid cancer. Furthermore, we identified several signaling pathways inherently associated with the IRG-based signature.This study suggests that IRGs participate in the dedifferentiation and immune exhaustion process of thyroid cancer and are potential biomarkers for DDTC.
Cui-Wei Li, Xiao Shi, Ben Ma, Yu-Long Wang, Zhong-Wu Lu, Tian Liao, Yu Wang, Qing-Hai Ji, Wen-Jun Wei