Systems biology-defined NF-kappaB regulons, interacting signal pathways and networks are implicated in the malignant phenotype of head and neck cancer cell lines differing in p53 status.
Van Waes C
Genome Biol. 2008 . 9(3):R53.
BACKGROUND: Aberrant activation of the nuclear factor kappaB (NF-kappaB) pathway has been previously implicated as a crucial signal promoting tumorigenesis. However, how NF-kappaB acts as a key regulatory node to modulate global gene expression, and contributes to the malignant heterogeneity of head and neck cancer, is not well understood. RESULTS: To address this question, we used a newly developed computational strategy, COGRIM (Clustering Of Gene Regulons using Integrated Modeling), to identify NF-kappaB regulons (a set of genes under regulation of the same transcription factor) for 1,265 genes differentially expressed by head and neck cancer cell lines differing in p53 status. There were 748 NF-kappaB targets predicted and individually annotated for RELA, NFkappaB1 or cREL regulation, and a prevalence of RELA related genes was observed in over-expressed clusters in a tumor subset. Using Ingenuity Pathway Analysis, the NF-kappaB targets were reverse-engineered into annotated signature networks and pathways, revealing relationships broadly altered in cancer lines (activated proinflammatory and down-regulated Wnt/beta-catenin and transforming growth factor-beta pathways), or specifically defective in cancer subsets (growth factors, cytokines, integrins, receptors and intermediate kinases). Representatives of predicted NF-kappaB target genes were experimentally validated through modulation by tumor necrosis factor-alpha or small interfering RNA for RELA or NFkappaB1. CONCLUSION: NF-kappaB globally regulates diverse gene programs that are organized in signal networks and pathways differing in cancer subsets with distinct p53 status. The concerted alterations in gene expression patterns reflect cross-talk among NF-kappaB and other pathways, which may provide a basis for molecular classifications and targeted therapeutics for heterogeneous subsets of head and neck or other cancers.