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Int J Cancer. 2007 Jun 15;120(12):2625-34.

Blockade of natural killer cell-mediated lysis by NCAM140 expressed on tumor cells.

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Department of Molecular Immunology, German Cancer Research Center, Heidelberg, Germany.


Expression of the neural cell adhesion molecule (NCAM) on malignant cells of neuroendocrine, epithelial and hematopoeitic origin has been reported, but its role for tumor cell recognition by the immune system remained uncertain so far. We have studied the cytotoxicity of the natural killer (NK) cell line NK92 and polyclonal NK cells from different donors, against NCAM-deficient and NCAM-transfected tumors. While the pancreatic carcinoma PANC-1 and the glioblastoma T98G showed no enhanced susceptibility to NK lysis after NCAM transfection, de novo NCAM expression in HeLa cervical carcinoma, SHEP neuroblastoma and the multiple myeloma lines RPMI-8226 and LP-1 was associated with significantly decreased lysis by NK cells. Binding of an NCAM-specific monoclonal antibody to NCAM-positive target cells was able to reverse the reduced lysis susceptibility. Conjugate formation of NCAM-expressing tumor cells with NK cells was blocked and could be restored by anti-NCAM. NK cell-expressed NCAM molecules which might engage in homotypic cis- or trans-interactions had no apparent inhibitory function. The known cis-ligands of NCAM, heparan sulfate proteoglycan and L1-CAM, were also not directly involved in NK inhibition. ICAM-1 mRNA and cell surface expression was downmodulated in NCAM-transfected HeLa cells. ICAM-1 is involved in killer cell immune synapse formation. Its downmodulation may therefore contribute to the reduced lysis of NCAM-expressing target cells. We conclude that aberrant expression of NCAM on tumor cells of different histogenetic origin can lead to inhibition of target cell recognition and lysis by NK cells.

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