Inducible but not constitutive expression of PD-L1 in human melanoma cells is dependent on activation of NF-κB

Kavitha Gowrishankar, Dilini Gunatilake, Stuart J. Gallagher, Jessamy Tiffen, Helen Rizos, Peter Hersey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

168 Citations (Scopus)
25 Downloads (Pure)


Monoclonal antibodies against immune checkpoint blockade have proven to be a major success in the treatment of melanoma. The programmed death receptor-1 ligand-1 (PD-L1) expression on melanoma cells is believed to have an inhibitory effect on T cell responses and to be an important escape mechanism from immune attack. Previous studies have shown that PD-L1 can be expressed constitutively or can be induced by IFN-γ secreted by infiltrating lymphocytes. In the present study we have investigated the mechanism underlying these two modes of PD-L1 expression in melanoma cells including cells that had acquired resistance to the BRAF inhibitor vemurafenib. PD-L1 expression was examined by flow cytometry and immunoblotting. Specific inhibitors and siRNA knockdown approaches were used to examine the roles of the RAF/ MEK, PI3K, NF-κB, STAT3 and AP1/ c-Jun pathways. IFN-γ inducible expression of PD-L1 was dependent on NF-κB as shown by inhibition with BMS-345541, an inhibitor of IκB and the BET protein inhibitor I-BET151, as well as by siRNA knockdown of NF-κB subunits. We were unable to implicate the BRAF/MEK pathway as major regulators in PD-L1 expression on vemurafenib resistant cells. Similarly the PI3K/AKT pathway and the transcription factors STAT3 and c-Jun had only minor roles in IFN-γ induced expression of PD-L1. The mechanism underlying constitutive expression remains unresolved. We suggest these results have significance in selection of treatments that can be used in combination with monoclonal antibodies against PD1, to enhance their effectiveness and to reduce inhibitory effects melanoma cells have against cytotoxic T cell activity.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere123410
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 6 Apr 2015

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2015. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


Dive into the research topics of 'Inducible but not constitutive expression of PD-L1 in human melanoma cells is dependent on activation of NF-κB'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this