Background: The immune cells in the local environments surrounding non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) implicate the balance of pro- and antitumor immunity; however, their transcriptomic profiles remain poorly understood. Methods: A transcriptomic microarray study of bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) cells harvested from tumor-bearing lung segments was performed in a discovery group. The findings were validated (1) in published microarray datasets, (2) in an independent group by RT-qPCR, and (3) in non-diseased and tumor adjacent non-neoplastic lung tissue by immunohistochemistry and in BAL cell lysates by immunoblotting. Result: The differential expression of 129 genes was identified in the discovery group. These genes revealed functional enrichment in Fc gamma receptor-dependent phagocytosis and circulating immunoglobulin complex among others. Microarray datasets analysis (n = 607) showed that gene expression of BAL cells of tumor-bearing lung segment was also the unique transcriptomic profile of tumor adjacent non-neoplastic lung of early stage NSCLC and a significantly gradient increase of immunoglobulin genes' expression for non-diseased lungs, tumor adjacent non-neoplastic lungs, and tumors was identified (ANOVA, p < 2 × 10-16). A 53-gene signature was determined with significant correlation with inhibitory checkpoint PDCD1 (r = 0.59, p = 0.0078) among others, where the nine top genes including IGJ and IGKC were RT-qPCR validated with high diagnostic performance (AUC: 0.920, 95% CI: 0.831-0.985, p = 2.98 × 10-7). Increased staining and expression of IGKC revealed by immunohistochemistry and immunoblotting in tumor adjacent non-neoplastic lung tissues (Wilcoxon signed-rank test, p < 0.001) and in BAL cell lysates (p < 0.01) of NSCLC, respectively, were noted. Conclusion: The BAL cells of tumor-bearing lung segments and tumor adjacent non-neoplastic lung tissues present a unique gene expression characterized by IGKC in relation to inhibitory checkpoints. Further study of humoral immune responses to NSCLC is warranted.
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