IJMS, Vol. 24, Pages 9696: SPINK2 Protein Expression Is an Independent Adverse Prognostic Marker in AML and Is Potentially Implicated in the Regulation of Ferroptosis and Immune Response (International Journal of Molecular Sciences)
There is an urgent need for the identification as well as clinicopathological and functional characterization of potent prognostic biomarkers and therapeutic targets in acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Using immunohistochemistry and next-generation sequencing, we investigated the protein expression as well as clinicopathological and prognostic associations of serine protease inhibitor Kazal type 2 (SPINK2) in AML and examined its potential biological functions. High SPINK2 protein expression was an independent adverse biomarker for survival and an indicator of elevated therapy resistance and relapse risk. SPINK2 expression was associated with AML with an NPM1 mutation and an intermediate risk by cytogenetics and European LeukemiaNet (ELN) 2022 criteria. Furthermore, SPINK2 expression could refine the ELN2022prognostic stratification. Functionally, an RNA sequencing analysis uncovered a potential link of SPINK2 with ferroptosis and immune response. SPINK2 regulated the expression of certain P53 targets and ferroptosis-related genes, including SLC7A11 and STEAP3, and affected cystine uptake, intracellular iron levels and sensitivity to erastin, a specific ferroptosis inducer. Furthermore, SPINK2 inhibition consistently increased the expression of ALCAM, an immune response enhancer and promoter of T-cell activity. Additionally, we identified a potential small-molecule inhibitor of SPINK2, which requires further characterization. In summary, high SPINK2 protein expression was a potent adverse prognostic marker in AML and might represent a druggable target.