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Int J Cancer. 2001 Sep;93(6):848-54.

K562 erythroleukemic cells are equipped with multiple mechanisms of resistance to lysis by complement.

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Institute of Immunology, University of Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany.


Resistance of tumor cells to lysis by complement is generally attributed to several protective mechanisms. The relative impact of these mechanisms in the same tumor cell, however, has not been assessed yet. We have analyzed the interaction of the human erythroleukemia tumor cell line K562 with human complement. K562 cells express the membrane complement regulatory proteins CD59, CD55 and CD46. As shown here for the first time, K562 also spontaneously release the soluble regulators C1 inhibitor, factor H, and soluble CD59. Complement resistance of K562 cells is augmented upon treatment with PMA, TNF or even with sublytic complement. Unlike TNF and sublytic complement, PMA enhanced the expression of membrane-bound CD55 and CD59 and led to increased secretion of soluble CD59. In addition, we show that complement-resistant K562 cells express a membrane-associated proteolytic activity, higher than the complement-sensitive K562/S cells. Treatment of complement-resistant K562 cells with serine protease inhibitors enhance their sensitivity to complement-mediated lysis. Inhibitors of protein kinase C (PKC) also sensitize K562 cells to complement lysis, implicating PKC-mediated signaling in cell resistance to complement. Neutralization of the CD55 and CD59 but not of CD46 regulatory activity with specific antibodies significantly increases complement-mediated K562 cell lysis. Treatment of K562 cells with a mixture of inhibitory reagents results in a significant additive enhancing effect on complement-mediated lysis of K562. In conclusion, K562 cells resist a complement attack by concomitantly using multiple molecular evasion strategies. Future attempts in antibody-based tumor therapy should include strategies to interfere with those resistance mechanisms.

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