INTRODUCTION: We have previously reported that Toll-like receptor 3 (TLR3) acts as a suppressor gene for breast cancer initiation and progression. In this study, we evaluated the role of TLR3 in breast cancer using our original Fudan University Shanghai Cancer Center (FUSCC) datasets and breast cancer tissue microarrays.
METHODS: Using FUSCC multiomics datasets on triple- negative breast cancer (TNBC), we compared the mRNA expression of TLR3 in TNBC tissue and the adjacent normal tissue. A Kaplan–Meier plotter was performed to investigate the expression of TLR3 on prognosis in the FUSCC TNBC cohort. We performed immunohistochemical staining to analyze TLR3 protein expression in the TNBC tissue microarrays. Furthermore, bioinformatics analysis was performed using the Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) data to verify the results of our FUSCC study. The relationship between TLR3 and clinicopathological features was analyzed with logistic regression and the Wilcoxon signed-rank test. The association between clinical characteristics and overall survival in TCGA patients was assessed using the Kaplan–Meier method and Cox regression analysis. Gene set enrichment analysis (GSEA) was performed to identify signaling pathways that are differentially activated in breast cancer.
The mRNA expression of TLR3 was lower in TNBC tissue than in the adjacent normal tissue in the FUSCC datasets. The TLR3 had high expression in immunomodulatory (IM) and mesenchymal-like (MES) subtypes and low expression in luminal androgen receptor (LAR) and basal-like immune-suppressed (BLIS) subtypes. High expression of TLR3 in TNBC predicted better prognosis in the FUSCC TNBC cohort. Immunohistochemical staining of the tissue microarrays showed that TLR3 had lower expression in breast cancer tissues than in the adject normal tissues. Furthermore, the TLR3 expression was positively associated with B cell, CD4+ T cells, CD8+ T cells, neutrophils, macrophages, and myeloid dendritic cells. Bioinformatic analysis using high-throughput RNA-sequencing data from the TCGA demonstrated that the reduced expression of TLR3 in breast cancer was associated with advanced clinicopathological characteristics, survival time, and poor prognosis.
CONCLUSIONS: TLR3 has low expression in TNBC tissue. High expression of TLR3 in triple-negative breast cancer predicts better prognosis. TLR3 expression may be a potential prognostic molecular marker of poor survival in breast cancer.