Basic Study
Copyright ©The Author(s) 2024. Published by Baishideng Publishing Group Inc. All rights reserved.
World J Gastrointest Oncol. Feb 15, 2024; 16(2): 436-457
Published online Feb 15, 2024. doi: 10.4251/wjgo.v16.i2.436
Comprehensive analysis of the potential pathogenesis of COVID-19 infection and liver cancer
Yao Rong, Ming-Zheng Tang, Song-Hua Liu, Xiao-Feng Li, Hui Cai
Yao Rong, Ming-Zheng Tang, Song-Hua Liu, Xiao-Feng Li, First Clinical Medical College, Gansu University of Chinese Medicine, Lanzhou 730000, Gansu Province, China
Yao Rong, Ming-Zheng Tang, Song-Hua Liu, Hui Cai, General Surgery Clinical Medical Center, Gansu Provincial Hospital, Lanzhou 730000, Gansu Province, China
Yao Rong, Ming-Zheng Tang, Hui Cai, Key Laboratory of Molecular Diagnostics and Precision Medicine for Surgical Oncology in Gansu Province, Gansu Provincial Hospital, Lanzhou 730000, Gansu Province, China
Yao Rong, Ming-Zheng Tang, Hui Cai, NHC Key Laboratory of Diagnosis and Therapy of Gastrointestinal Tumor, Gansu Provincial Hospital, Lanzhou 730000, Gansu Province, China
Co-first authors: Yao Rong and Ming-Zheng Tang.
Author contributions: Rong Y and Tang MZ were co-first authors. Rong Y, Tang MZ, and Cai H conceived the study; Rong Y wrote the manuscript; Rong Y and Tang MZ completed the methodology section, produced the images and tables, and completed the in vitro experiments; Liu SH collected the relevant data; Li XF analysed the data; Cai H reviewed the paper; and all authors read and approved the final draft.
Supported by 2021 Central-Guided Local Science and Technology Development Fund; National Key Research and Development Program, No. 2018YFC1311506; Gansu Provincial People’s Hospital Intramural Cultivation Key Project, No. 19SYPYA-1; and Lanzhou COVID-19 Prevention and Control Technology Research Project, No. 2020-XG-1.
Institutional review board statement: The research experiment only addresses the validation of cancer cell expression at the in vitro level, and does not involve human or animal related studies, therefore no Institutional Review Board approval form or document is applicable.
Conflict-of-interest statement: All the authors report no relevant conflicts of interest for this article.
Data sharing statement: The original contributions presented in the study are included in the article/supplementary material, further inquiries can be directed to the corresponding author.
Open-Access: This article is an open-access article that was selected by an in-house editor and fully peer-reviewed by external reviewers. It is distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial. See:
Corresponding author: Hui Cai, PhD, Doctor, General Surgery Clinical Medical Center, Gansu Provincial Hospital, No. 204 Donggang West Road, Chengguan District, Lanzhou 730000, Gansu Province, China.
Received: August 19, 2023
Peer-review started: August 19, 2023
First decision: December 5, 2023
Revised: December 13, 2023
Accepted: January 9, 2024
Article in press: January 9, 2024
Published online: February 15, 2024
Research background

The global pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) posed an enormous crisis challenge to the public health system, and the negative effects continue. Numerous clinical examples have shown that COVID-19 appears to have a significant impact on the treatment of patients with liver cancer compared to the normal population, and that the prevalence of COVID-19 infection is significantly higher in patients with liver cancer.

Research motivation

Both COVID-19 and liver cancer deserve serious attention in an attempt to gain a deeper understanding of their potential association, and at the same time, there is a lack of joint analyses and explorations of these two diseases.

Research objectives

Based on the bioinformatics approach to explore the potential link between COVID-19 and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), it is expected that the common regulatory mechanism of both will be discovered.

Research methods

The datasets of COVID-19 and liver cancer were obtained from the Gene Expression Omnibus database. The common differentially expressed genes (DGEs) of COVID-19 and HCC were obtained by R software, and they were subjected to Gene Ontology/Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes enrichment analysis, protein-protein interaction network construction, and hub genes were screened and enriched from DGEs. Subsequently, the differential expression of hub genes in diseases was verified, and the regulatory networks of transcription factors and hub genes were constructed. The expression of some hub genes in liver cancer was verified by quantitative reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction.

Research results

Five hundred and eighteen common differentially expressed genes were obtained by screening, from which the 15 most critical hub genes were identified. Functional enrichment analysis of the pivotal genes showed that these hub genes were closely related to P53 signalling pathway regulation, cell cycle and other functions, and might serve as potential diagnostic markers for COVID-19 and liver cancer. Finally, some of these hub genes were selected for in vitro expression validation in liver cancer cells.

Research conclusions

Our findings suggest that the common pathogenic mechanism of COVID-19 and liver cancer may be mediated by pathways such as the role of specific hub genes and the P53 signalling pathway.

Research perspectives

The construction of a dual-disease model of COVID-19 and liver cancer is of great interest for further validation of the correlation between the two pathogenic mechanisms.