Combined methylome and transcriptome analyses reveals potential therapeutic targets for EGFR wild type lung cancers with low PD-L1 expression

Weilei Hu, Guosheng Wang, Lonny B. Yarmus, Yuan Wan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) targeting PD-1/PD-L1 have demonstrated remarkable treatment efficacy in advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). However, low expression of programmed death-ligand 1 (PD-L1), epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) wild-type NSCLCs are refractory, and only few therapeutic options exist. Currently, combination therapy with ICIs is frequently used in order to enhance the treatment response rates. Yet, this regimen is still associated with poor treatment outcome. Therefore, identification of potential therapeutic targets for this subgroup of NSCLC is strongly desired. Here, we report the distinct methylation signatures of this special subgroup. Moreover, several druggable targets and relevant drugs for targeted therapy were incidentally identified. We found hypermethylated differentially methylated regions (DMRs) in three regions (TSS200, TSS1500, and gene body) are significantly higher than hypomethylated ones. Downregulated methylated genes were found to be involved in negative regulation of immune response and T cell-mediated immunity. Moreover, expression of four methylated genes (PLCXD3 (Phosphatidylinositol-Specific Phospholipase C, X Domain Containing 3), BAIAP2L2 (BAR/IMD Domain Containing Adaptor Protein 2 Like 2), NPR3 (Natriuretic Peptide Receptor 3), SNX10 (Sorting Nexin 10)) can influence patients’ prognosis. Subsequently, based on DrugBank data, NetworkAnalyst 3.0 was used for protein–drug interaction analysis of up-regulated differentially methylated genes. Protein products of nine genes were identified as potential druggable targets, of which the tumorigenic potential of XDH (Xanthine Dehydrogenase), ATIC (5-Aminoimidazole-4-Carboxamide Ribonucleotide Formyltransferase/IMP Cyclohydrolase), CA9 (Carbonic Anhydrase 9), SLC7A11 (Solute Carrier Family 7 Member 11), and GAPDH (Glyceraldehyde-3-Phosphate Dehydrogenase) have been demonstrated in previous studies. Next, molecular docking and molecular dynamics simulation were performed to verify the structural basis of the therapeutic targets. It is noteworthy that the identified pemetrexed targeting ATIC has been recently approved for first-line use in combination with anti-PD1 inhibitors against lung cancer, irrespective of PD-L1 expression. In future work, a pivotal clinical study will be initiated to further validate our findings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2496
Pages (from-to)1-24
Number of pages24
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2020


  • Combination strategies
  • DNA methylation
  • EGFR mutation-negative
  • Immune checkpoint inhibitors
  • Low PD-L1 expression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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