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Genes 2018, 9(2), 92;

Identification of Key Pathways and Genes in the Dynamic Progression of HCC Based on WGCNA

1,2,3,* , 3
College of Life Science, Henan Normal University, Xinxiang 453007, Henan, China
State Key Laboratory Cultivation Base for Cell Differentiation Regulation and Henan Engineering Laboratory for Bioengineering and Drug Development, Henan Normal University, Xinxiang 453007, Henan, China
Luohe Medical College, Luohe 462002, Henan, China
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 16 January 2018 / Revised: 4 February 2018 / Accepted: 8 February 2018 / Published: 14 February 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Computational Approaches for Disease Gene Identification)
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Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is a devastating disease worldwide. Though many efforts have been made to elucidate the process of HCC, its molecular mechanisms of development remain elusive due to its complexity. To explore the stepwise carcinogenic process from pre-neoplastic lesions to the end stage of HCC, we employed weighted gene co-expression network analysis (WGCNA) which has been proved to be an effective method in many diseases to detect co-expressed modules and hub genes using eight pathological stages including normal, cirrhosis without HCC, cirrhosis, low-grade dysplastic, high-grade dysplastic, very early and early, advanced HCC and very advanced HCC. Among the eight consecutive pathological stages, five representative modules are selected to perform canonical pathway enrichment and upstream regulator analysis by using ingenuity pathway analysis (IPA) software. We found that cell cycle related biological processes were activated at four neoplastic stages, and the degree of activation of the cell cycle corresponded to the deterioration degree of HCC. The orange and yellow modules enriched in energy metabolism, especially oxidative metabolism, and the expression value of the genes decreased only at four neoplastic stages. The brown module, enriched in protein ubiquitination and ephrin receptor signaling pathways, correlated mainly with the very early stage of HCC. The darkred module, enriched in hepatic fibrosis/hepatic stellate cell activation, correlated with the cirrhotic stage only. The high degree hub genes were identified based on the protein-protein interaction (PPI) network and were verified by Kaplan-Meier survival analysis. The novel five high degree hub genes signature that was identified in our study may shed light on future prognostic and therapeutic approaches. Our study brings a new perspective to the understanding of the key pathways and genes in the dynamic changes of HCC progression. These findings shed light on further investigations View Full-Text
Keywords: hepatocellular carcinoma; WGCNA; time serial expression analysis; cell cycle; oxidative metabolism; Kaplan-Meier Survival analysis hepatocellular carcinoma; WGCNA; time serial expression analysis; cell cycle; oxidative metabolism; Kaplan-Meier Survival analysis

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Yin, L.; Cai, Z.; Zhu, B.; Xu, C. Identification of Key Pathways and Genes in the Dynamic Progression of HCC Based on WGCNA. Genes 2018, 9, 92.

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