Three HNSCC cell lines (BICR6, PE/CA-PJ34 and PE/CA-PJ41) were used to analyze PD-L1 expression by immunoblotting, immunofluorescence and QPCR. Freely-available single cell RNAseq data from HNSCC were also used.
5-Fluorouracil (5-FU) increased the expression of PD-L1 with high efficacy in HNSCC cells. Single cell RNAseq data suggested the specificity of the regulation of PD-L1 in this context. The effect of 5-FU on PD-L1 expression was related to its genotoxic effect and was prevented by extracellular application of thymidine or using a chemical inhibitor of the DNA damage Response kinases ATM/ATR. We found that the effect of 5-FU was additive or synergistic with IFN-γ, the canonical inducer of PD-L1 in epithelial cells. QPCR analysis confirmed this finding and identified JAK-dependent transcriptional activation of PD-L1/CD274 as the underlying mechanism. The induction of PD-L1 by 5-FU was partially prevented by Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR) inhibition with cetuximab.
Our study highlights the specific DNA Damage Response- and JAK- dependent induction of PD-L1 by 5-FU in HNSCC cells. This induction is regulated by the cytokine context and is potentially therapeutically actionable.
Copyright © 2021. Published by Elsevier Inc.