Open Peer Review reports
Insulin and epithelial growth factor (EGF) promote programmed death ligand 1(PD-L1) production and transport in colon cancer stem cells
© The Author(s). 2019
- Published: 15 February 2019
Programmed cell death ligand 1 (PD-L1) is an important immune-inhibitory protein expressed on cancer cells to mediate cancer escape through interaction with PD-1 expressed on activated T lymphocytes (T cells). Previously, we reported that colon and breast cancer stem cells (CSCs) expressed much higher levels of PD-L1 than their parental cells, suggesting they will be more resistant to immune attack.
We investigated the underlining mechanism of PD-L1 increase in colon CSCs, with a special focus on the effect of insulin and epithelial growth factor (EGF), the two fundamental components to sustain the metabolism and stemness in the culture of CSCs.
We found that insulin increased the total and surface PD-L1 levels through PI3K/Akt/mTOR pathway as the increase could be inhibited by the dual inhibitor of the pathway, BEZ235. EGF didn’t affect the total PD-L1 levels of CSCs but increased the cell surface protein levels by flow cytometry analysis, indicating EGF promotes the transport of PD-L1 to the cell surface. Blocking cell surface PD-L1 with a specific antibody resulted in a significant reduction of tumour sphere formation but didn’t interfere with the sphere growth, suggesting that cell surface PD-L1 may act as an adhering molecule for CSCs.
Apart from the essential roles in metabolism and stemness, insulin and EGF involve in up-regulation of PD-L1 expression in colon CSCs, therefore the inhibition of insulin and EGF/EGFR pathways can be considered for cancer immunotherapy or combined with PD-1/PD-L1 antibody-based cancer immunotherapy to eliminate CSCs.
- Cancer stem cells
- PI3K-Akt pathway
- Colon cancer