Tumor Suppressor microRNAs Contribute to the Regulation of PD-L1 Expression in Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma

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Abstract

Introduction:

The upregulation of programmed death ligand 1 (PD-L1) is found in many cancers and contributes to evasion of the host's immune defense. In malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM), PD-L1 expression is associated with the nonepithelioid histological subtype and poor prognosis, but the pathways involved in control of PD-L1 expression in MPM are poorly understood. To address one possible means of PD-L1 regulation we investigated the relationship between dysregulated microRNA levels and PD-L1 expression.

Methods:

PD-L1 expression was analyzed by immunohistochemistry in tissue microarrays prepared from samples from patients undergoing an operation (pleurectomy with or without decortication). MicroRNA expression was analyzed by reverse-transcriptase quantitative polymerase chain reaction. Regulation of PD-L1 expression in cell lines was assessed after transfection with microRNA mimics and small interfering RNAs. Interaction between microRNAs and PD-L1 was analyzed by using argonaute-2 immunoprecipitation and a luciferase reporter assay.

Results:

In a series of 72 patients with MPM, 18 (25%) had positive PD-L1 staining, and this was more common in patients with the nonepithelioid subtype (p = 0.01). PD-L1 expression was associated with poor survival (median overall survival 4.0 versus 9.2 months with positive versus negative PD-L1 expression [p < 0.001]), and in multivariate analyses, PD-L1 expression remained a significant adverse prognostic indicator (hazard ratio = 2.2, 95% confidence interval: 1.2–4.1, p < 0.01). In the same patient series, PD-L1 expression was also associated with downregulation of microRNAs previously shown to have tumor suppressor activity in MPM. The median microRNA expression levels of miR-15b, miR-16, miR-193a-3p, miR-195, and miR-200c were significantly lower in the PD-L1–positive samples. Transfecting MPM cell lines with mimics corresponding to miR-15a and miR-16, both of which are predicted to target PD-L1, led to downregulation of PD-L1 mRNA and protein. In addition, miR-193a-3p, with an alternative G-U–containing target site, also caused PD-L1 downregulation.

Conclusions:

Together, these data suggest that tumor suppressor microRNAs contribute to the regulation of PD-L1 expression in MPM.

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