The diagnostic and prognostic potential of the EGFR/MUC4/MMP9 axis in glioma patients

Agathe Quesnel, Nathan Coles, Tuomo M. Polvikoski, George S. Karagiannis, Claudio Angione, Meez Islam, Ahmad A. Khundakar, Panagiota S. Filippou

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Abstract

Glioblastoma is the most aggressive form of brain cancer, presenting poor prognosis despite current advances in treatment. There is therefore an urgent need for novel biomarkers and therapeutic targets. Interactions between mucin 4 (MUC4) and the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) are involved in carcinogenesis, and may lead to matrix metalloproteinase-9 (MMP9) overexpression, exacerbating cancer cell invasiveness. In this study, the role of MUC4, MMP9, and EGFR in the progression and clinical outcome of glioma patients was investigated. Immunohistochemistry (IHC) and immunofluorescence (IF) in fixed tissue samples of glioma patients were used to evaluate the expression and localization of EGFR, MMP9, and MUC4. Kaplan-Meier survival analysis was also performed to test the prognostic utility of the proteins for glioma patients. The protein levels were assessed with enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) in serum of glioma patients, to further investigate their potential as non-invasive serum biomarkers. We demonstrated that MUC4 and MMP9 are both significantly upregulated during glioma progression. Moreover, MUC4 is co-expressed with MMP9 and EGFR in the proliferative microvasculature of glioblastoma, suggesting a potential role for MUC4 in microvascular proliferation and angiogenesis. The combined high expression of MUC4/MMP9, and MUC4/MMP9/EGFR was associated with poor overall survival (OS). Finally, MMP9 mean protein level was significantly higher in the serum of glioblastoma compared with grade III glioma patients, whereas MUC4 mean protein level was minimally elevated in higher glioma grades (III and IV) compared with control. Our results suggest that MUC4, along with MMP9, might account for glioblastoma progression, representing potential therapeutic targets, and suggesting the 'MUC4/MMP9/EGFR axis' may play a vital role in glioblastoma diagnostics.

Original languageEnglish
Article number19868
Number of pages13
JournalScientific Reports
Volume12
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 18 Nov 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors express their gratitude to the Manchester Cancer Research Centre (MCRC), NovoPath biobanks and Newcastle Brain Tissue Resource, as well as the individuals who kindly donated their tissue and serum for use in this study.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, Crown.

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