Nuclear Respiratory Factor 1 (NRF1) Transcriptional Activity-Driven Gene Signature Association with Severity of Astrocytoma and Poor Prognosis of Glioblastoma


Despite tremendous progress in understanding the pathobiology of astrocytoma, major gaps remain in our knowledge of the molecular basis underlying the aggressiveness of high-grade astrocytoma (glioblastoma - GBM). Recently, we and others have shown nuclear respiratory factor 1 (NRF1) transcription factor being highly active in human cancers, but its role in astrocytoma remains unknown. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to uncover the role of NRF1 in the progression of GBM. NRF1 has higher mRNA expression and transcription factor activity in astrocytoma compared to non-tumor brain tissue. NRF1 activity also correlated with the aggressiveness of cancer. Increased NRF1 TF activity coupled with overexpression of RHOG was associated with poor survival of GBM patients. NRF1 activity was associated with transcriptomic signatures of neurogenesis, cell stemness, epithelial-mesenchymal transition and cell cycle progression. Overexpression of CDK4, AKT1, APAF1, HDAC1, NBN, TGFB1, & TNFRSF1A and downregulation of CASP3, IL7, STXBP1 and OPA1 predicted GBM malignancy in high expressors of NRF1 activity. Increased expression of the NRF1 motif containing genes, H6PD, NAT10, NBEAL2, and RNF19B predicted poor survival of IDH1 wild-type GBM patients. Poor survival outcomes and resistance to Temozolomide therapy were associated with higher NRF1 expression including its targets - LDHA, ZMAT3, NSUN2, ARMC5, NDEL1, CLPTM1L, ALKBH5, YIPF5, PPP2CA, and TFG. These findings suggest that aberrant NRF1 activity may contribute to the pathogenesis of GBM and severity of astrocytoma. Further analyses of NRF1 gene signatures will pave the way for next generation targeted therapies and drug combination strategies for GBM patients.

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We are grateful to the United States-India Educational Foundation for a Senior US Fulbright Nehru Scholar Award to DR.

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We used public datasets in this study and details of analysis used in the current study are available from the first author or corresponding author upon request.

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The study was designed, analyzed and interpreted by DR and KB. KB was helped by QF and DR in writing the manuscript. SEH, NE, VS, IM and CW contributed in the preparation of the final version of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Deodutta Roy.

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Bhawe, K., Felty, Q., Yoo, C. et al. Nuclear Respiratory Factor 1 (NRF1) Transcriptional Activity-Driven Gene Signature Association with Severity of Astrocytoma and Poor Prognosis of Glioblastoma. Mol Neurobiol (2020).

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  • NRF1 activity
  • CDK4
  • RHOG
  • Cancer stem cells
  • EMT
  • Glioblastoma