Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland
Master Transcription Regulators and Transcription Factors Regulate Immune-Associated Differences Between Patients of African and European Ancestry With Colorectal Cancer.pdf (2.51 MB)

Master transcription regulators and transcription factors regulate immune-associated differences between patients of African and European ancestry with colorectal cancer

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journal contribution
posted on 2022-06-09, 15:50 authored by Parvathi A Myer, Hyunjin Kim, Anna BlümelAnna Blümel, Ellen FinneganEllen Finnegan, Alexander Kel, Taylor V Thompson, John M Greally, Jochen PrehnJochen Prehn, Darran O'ConnorDarran O'Connor, Richard A Friedman, Aris Floratos, Sudipto DasSudipto Das

BACKGROUND AND AIMS: Individuals of African (AFR) ancestry have a higher incidence of colorectal cancer (CRC) than those of European (EUR) ancestry and exhibit significant health disparities. Previous studies have noted differences in the tumor microenvironment between AFR and EUR patients with CRC. However, the molecular regulatory processes that underpin these immune differences remain largely unknown. 

METHODS: Multiomics analysis was carried out for 55 AFR and 456 EUR patients with microsatellite-stable CRC using The Cancer Genome Atlas. We evaluated the tumor microenvironment by using gene expression and methylation data, transcription factor, and master transcriptional regulator analysis to identify the cell signaling pathways mediating the observed phenotypic differences.

RESULTS: We demonstrate that downregulated genes in AFR patients with CRC showed enrichment for canonical pathways, including chemokine signaling. Moreover, evaluation of the tumor microenvironment showed that cytotoxic lymphocytes and neutrophil cell populations are significantly decreased in AFR compared with EUR patients, suggesting AFR patients have an attenuated immune response. We further demonstrate that molecules called “master transcriptional regulators” (MTRs) play a critical role in regulating the expression of genes impacting key immune processes through an intricate signal transduction network mediated by diseaseassociated transcription factors (TFs). Furthermore, a core set of these MTRs and TFs showed a positive correlation with levels of cytotoxic lymphocytes and neutrophils across both AFR and EUR patients with CRC, thus suggesting their role in driving the immune infiltrate differences between the two ancestral groups. 

CONCLUSION: Our study provides an insight into the intricate regulatory landscape of MTRs and TFs that orchestrate the differences in the tumor microenvironment between patients with CRC of AFR and EUR ancestry.


Examining the functional and diagnostic potential of methylation sensitive enhancers in metastatic colorectal cancer | Funder: Irish Research Council (IRC) | Grant ID: GOIPG/2019/1289

National Institutes of Health NIH Paul Calabresi (K12) Career Development Award (5K12CA132783-12)

Science Foundation Ireland - Starting Investigator Research Grant award (SFI-SIRG) - 18/SIRG/5655

Science Foundation Ireland Career Development Award (15/CDA/ 3438)

National Cancer Institute grants U54CA209997 and P30CA013696

Shared Instrumentation Grants S10OD012351 and S10OD021764

European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 754923 (COLOSSUS)

Science Foundation Ireland and the Health Research Board and the National Cancer Institute (16/US/3301 ‘Systems Modeling of Tumor Heterogeneity and Therapy Response in Colorectal Cancer’)



The original article is available at

Published Citation

Myer PA. et al. Master transcription regulators and transcription factors regulate immune-associated differences between patients of African and European ancestry with colorectal cancer. Gastro Hep Advances 2022;1:328–341

Publication Date

27 January 2022


  • Physiology and Medical Physics
  • School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences

Research Area

  • Immunity, Infection and Inflammation
  • Cancer


Elsevier BV


  • Published Version (Version of Record)