Gastric carcinoma (GC) progression is mainly caused by local aggression and lymph node metastasis. However, some patients with early T-stage disease have lymph node metastasis, whereas some patients with late T-stage disease do not have lymph node metastasis, which indicates that invasion and metastasis are not always sequential in some GC patients. In the present study, the data of 101 GC cases were acquired from TCGA and divided into T-late-N-negative and T-early-N-positive groups according to pathological stages. A total of 338 genes were identified as differential genes between the T-late-N-negative and T-early-N-positive groups. GSEA showed that epithelial cell signaling in the Helicobacter pylori (HP) infection pathway was enriched in the T-early-N-positive group. MB staining indicated that the HP infection rate was 63% (39/62) in N-positive patients compared to 42% (16/38) in N-negative patients. To investigate the potential mechanism, we focused on the gene chemokine (C-X-C motif) receptor 2 (CXCR2), which was not only clustered in the gene set of epithelial cells signaling in the HP infection pathway but also significantly upregulated in T-early-N-positive GC by the analysis of the different genes based on the TCGA dataset. A meta-analysis showed that CXCR2 expression was positively correlated with N-stage but not with T-stage in GC. This study indicated that invasion and metastasis could be independent processes driven by different molecular mechanisms in some GC patients. HP infection was a potential factor that promoted lymph node metastasis by upregulating CXCR2 expression.
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