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IFNγ-induced PD-L1 expression is JAK2 but not JAK1 dependent and its inhibition enhances NK-cetuximab mediated ADCC of HNSCC cells
  1. Fernando Concha-Benavente1 and
  2. Robert L Ferris1,2,3
  1. Aff1 grid.21925.3d0000000419369000Department of immunologyUniveristy of Pittsburgh Pittsburgh PA USA
  2. Aff2 grid.21925.3d0000000419369000Department of OtolaryngologyUniversity of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute Pittsburgh PA USA
  3. Aff3 grid.21925.3d0000000419369000Cancer Immunology ProgramUniversity of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute Pittsburgh PA USA

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Meeting abstracts

Programmed death ligand 1 (PD-L1) is an immunosuppressive molecule expressed by many cancer types, including a large proportion of head and neck cancers (HNC), and ligation of its receptor, programmed death 1 (PD-1), induces exhaustion of effector T cells. It has been shown that interferon gamma (IFNγ) induces PD-L1 expression in many cancer types including glioblastoma, melanoma, lung and kidney cancer. Importantly, the stimuli and mechanism for PD-L1 upregulation in HNC cells are not well characterized. IFNγ signals through Janus Kinase 1/2 (JAK1/2) heterodimer complex and mediates signal transducer and activator of transcription 1 (STAT1) phosphorylation, leading to type I cytokine expression, upregulation of antigen presentation, and tumor cell recognition by cytolytic T lymphocytes (CTL). We investigated basal PD-L1 expression and the mechanism by which IFNγ signaling upregulates PD-L1 in HNC cells including dependence on JAK/STAT pathway. We observed that IFNγ signaling increased PD-L1 expression in a JAK2 but not JAK1 dependent fashion. In addition, interferon alpha (IFNα), which signals via JAK1/TYK2 did not upregulate PD-L1 expression while still upregulated HLA class I. Specific JAK2 inhibition downregulated NK cell-derived IFNγ induced PD-L1 expression and enhanced cetuximab mediated ADCC. Our data suggest a crucial role for JAK2/STAT1 in IFNγ mediated PD-L1 upregulation. JAK2 inhibition provides a promising strategy to increase tumor cell lysis through maintaining HLA class I while suppressing tumor cell expressed PD-L1 in combination with anti-EGFR cetuximab therapy.