Regulatory T Cell-Related Gene Indicators in Pulmonary Hypertension

Y. Liu*, J.Z. Shi, R. Jiang, S.F. Liu*, Y.Y. He, E.P.C. van der Vorst, C. Weber, Y. Doering, Y. Yan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Objective: Regulatory T cells (Tregs) are critical immune modulators to maintain immune homeostasis and limit pulmonary hypertension (PH). This study was aimed to identify Treg-related genes (TRGs) in PH.Methods: The gene expression profile from lungs of PH patients was retrieved from the Gene Expression Omnibus (GEO) database. The abundance of Tregs was estimated by the xCell algorithm, the correlation of which with differentially expressed genes (DEGs) was performed. DEGs with a |Pearson correlation coefficient| >0.4 were identified as TRGs. Functional annotation and the protein-protein interaction (PPI) network were analyzed. A gene signature for 25 hub TRGs (TRGscore) was generated by a single sample scoring method to determine its accuracy to distinguish PH from control subjects. TRGs were validated in datasets of transcriptional profiling of PH cohorts and in lung tissues of experimental PH mice.Results: A total of 819 DEGs were identified in lungs of 58 PAH patients compared to that of 25 control subjects of dataset GSE117261. In total, 165 of all these DEGs were correlated with the abundance of Tregs and identified as TRGs, with 90 upregulated genes and 75 downregulated genes compared to that of control subjects. The upregulated TRGs were enriched in negative regulation of multiple pathways, such as cAMP-mediated signaling and I-kappaB kinase/NF-kappaB signaling, and regulated by multiple genes encoding transcriptional factors including HIF1A. Furthermore, 25 hub genes categorized into three clusters out of 165 TRGs were derived, and we identified 27 potential drugs targeting 10 hub TRGs. The TRGscore based on 25 hub TRGs was higher in PH patients and could distinguish PH from control subjects (all AUC >0.7). Among them, 10 genes including NCF2, MNDA/Ifi211, HCK, FGR, CSF3R, AQP9, S100A8, G6PD/G6pdx, PGD, and TXNRD1 were significantly reduced in lungs of severe PH patients of dataset GSE24988 as well as in lungs of hypoxic PH mice compared to corresponding controls.Conclusion: Our finding will shed some light on the Treg-associated therapeutic targets in the progression of PH and emphasize on TRGscore as a novel indicator for PH.
Original languageEnglish
Article number908783
Number of pages13
JournalFrontiers in Pharmacology
Publication statusPublished - 31 May 2022


  • pulmonary hypertension
  • regulatory T cells
  • Treg-related genes
  • transcriptomics
  • immune
  • gene indicators


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