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Tumour cell-intrinsic CTLA4 regulates PD-L1 expression in non-small cell lung cancer.

Abstract

Cytotoxic T lymphocyte antigen 4 (CTLA4) and programmed cell death protein 1 (PD-1) are immune checkpoint proteins expressed in T cells. Although CTLA4 expression was found in multiple tumours including non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) tissues and cells, its function in tumour cells is unknown. Recently, PD-1 was found to be expressed in melanoma cells and to promote tumorigenesis. We found that CTLA4 was expressed in a subset of NSCLC cell lines and in a subgroup of cancer cells within the lung cancer tissues. We further found that in NSCLC cells, anti-CTLA4 antibody can induce PD-L1 expression, which is mediated by CTLA4 and the EGFR pathway involving phosphorylation of MEK and ERK. In CTLA4 knockout cells, EGFR knockout cells or in the presence of an EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitor, anti-CTLA4 antibody was not able to induce PD-L1 expression in NSCLC cells. Moreover, anti-CTLA4 antibody promoted NSCLC cell proliferation in vitro and tumour growth in vivo in the absence of adaptive immunity. These results suggest that tumour cell-intrinsic CTLA4 can regulate PD-L1 expression and cell proliferation, and that anti-CTLA4 antibody, by binding to the tumour cell-intrinsic CTLA4, may result in the activation of the EGFR pathway in cancer cells.

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