Role of Nitric Oxide-Signalling in Hypoxia-Induced Immune Escape in Cancer

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Hamilton, Thomas K.
Hypoxia , Immune Escape , Cancer , Nitric Oxide
A key step in malignant progression is the acquired ability of tumour cells to escape immune-mediated lysis. A potential mechanism by which tumour cells avoid immune destruction involves the shedding of MHC Class I Chain-Related Protein A (MICA), a Natural Killer (NK) cell-activating ligand, from the tumour cell membrane. Hypoxia has been shown to cause increased MICA shedding; however, this hypoxia-induced effect can be attenuated by pharmacological activation of the cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP)-dependent nitric oxide (NO)-signalling pathway in cancer cells. The primary objective of the present study was to determine whether treatment of tumour-bearing nude mice with the NO-mimetic glyceryl trinitrate (GTN) attenuates in vivo tumour growth and if so, whether this effect is dependent on the presence of an intact NK cell compartment. Results indicated that continuous transdermal administration of GTN (1.8 µg/h) can significantly attenuate the growth of transplanted human DU-145 prostate tumours but that this effect of GTN is lost in mice whose NK-cells have been depleted. Tumours and serum from the mice in this study were analysed to determine whether GTN treatment had any effect on the expression levels of proteins integral to the proposed MICA shedding mechanism; however, the results of these studies were inconclusive. As phosphodiesterase (PDE) inhibition represents a potential method to enhance NO-signalling, experiments were performed to determine whether treatment with the PDE5/6 inhibitor zaprinast could also attenuate hypoxia-induced MICA shedding and decrease in vivo growth of DU-145 tumours. Results demonstrated that treatment with zaprinast (10 mg/kg) significantly attenuates MICA shedding in DU-145 cancer cells and significantly decreases in vivo tumour growth. Taken together, the results of these experiments indicate that GTN attenuates tumour growth by sensitising tumour cells to innate immunity, likely by increasing membrane-associated tumour cell MICA levels through the reactivation of NO-signalling, and that zaprinast decreases tumour growth likely through a similar mechanism. These findings are important because they indicate that agents capable of reactivating NO-signalling, such as NO-mimetics and PDE inhibitors, can potentially be used as immunosensitisers in the treatment and/or prevention of cancer.
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