JOURNAL ARTICLE

IL-27 mediates HLA class I up-regulation, which can be inhibited by the IL-6 pathway, in HLA-deficient Small Cell Lung Cancer cells

Grazia Carbotti, Amin Reza Nikpoor, Paola Vacca, Rosaria Gangemi, Chiara Giordano, Francesco Campelli, Silvano Ferrini, Marina Fabbi
Journal of Experimental & Clinical Cancer Research: CR 2017 October 11, 36 (1): 140
29020964

BACKGROUND: Recently, immunotherapy with anti-PD-1 antibodies has shown clinical benefit in recurrent Small Cell Lung Cancer (SCLC). Since anti-PD-1 re-activates anti-tumor Cytotoxic T Lymphocyte (CTL) responses, it is crucial to understand the mechanisms regulating HLA class I, and PD-L1 expression in HLA-negative SCLC. Here we addressed the role of IL-27, a cytokine related to both IL-6 and IL-12 families.

METHODS: The human SCLC cell lines NCI-N592, -H69, -H146, -H446 and -H82 were treated in vitro with different cytokines (IL-27, IFN-γ, IL-6 or a soluble IL-6R/IL-6 chimera [sIL-6R/IL-6]) at different time points and analyzed for tyrosine-phosphorylated STAT proteins by Western blot, for surface molecule expression by immunofluorescence and FACS analyses or for specific mRNA expression by QRT-PCR. Relative quantification of mRNAs was calculated by the ΔΔCT method. The Student's T test was used for the statistical analysis of experimental replicates.

RESULTS: IL-27 triggered STAT1/3 phosphorylation and up-regulated the expression of surface HLA class I antigen and of TAP1 and TAP2 mRNA in four out of five SCLC cell lines tested. The IL-27-resistant NCI-H146 cells showed up-regulation of HLA class I by IFN-γ. IFN-γ also induced expression of PD-L1 in SCLC cells, while IL-27 was less potent in this respect. IL-27 failed to activate STAT1/3 phosphorylation in NCI-H146 cells, which display a low expression of the IL-27RA and GP130 receptor chains. As GP130 is shared in IL-27R and IL-6R complexes, we assessed its functionality in response to sIL-6R/IL-6. sIL-6R/IL-6 failed to trigger STAT1/3 signaling in NCI-H146 cells, suggesting low GP130 expression or uncoupling from signal transduction. Although both sIL-6R/IL-6 and IL-27 triggered STAT1/3 phosphorylation, sIL-6R/IL-6 failed to up-regulate HLA class I expression, in relationship to the weak activation of STAT1. Finally sIL-6R/IL-6 limited IL-27-effects, particularly in NCI-H69 cells, in a SOCS3-independent manner, but did not modify IFN-γ induced HLA class I up-regulation.

CONCLUSIONS: In conclusion, IL-27 is a potentially interesting cytokine for restoring HLA class I expression for SCLC combined immunotherapy purposes. However, the concomitant activation of the IL-6 pathway may limit the IL-27 effect on HLA class I induction but did not significantly alter the responsiveness to IFN-γ.

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