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Oncogene. 2009 Jun 25;28(25):2370-82. doi: 10.1038/onc.2009.117. Epub 2009 May 11.

HDAC3 represses the expression of NKG2D ligands ULBPs in epithelial tumour cells: potential implications for the immunosurveillance of cancer.

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Departamento de Biología Funcional, Universidad de Oviedo, IUOPA, Principado de Asturias, Spain.


The expression of the NKG2D ligands on cancer cells leads to their recognition and elimination by host immune responses mediated by natural killer and T cells. UL16-binding proteins (ULBPs) are NKG2D ligands, which are scarcely expressed in epithelial tumours, favouring their evasion from the immune system. Herein, we investigated the epigenetic mechanisms underlying the repression of ULBPs in epithelial cancer cells. We show that ULBP1-3 expression is increased in tumour cells after exposure to the inhibitor of histone deacetylases (HDACs) trichostatin A (TSA), which enhances the natural killer cell-mediated cytotoxicity of HeLa cells. Our experiments showed that the transcription factor Sp3 is crucial in the activation of the ULBP1 promoter by TSA. Furthermore, by small interfering RNA-mediated knockdown and overexpression of HDAC1-3, we showed that HDAC3 is a repressor of ULBPs expression in epithelial cancer cells. Remarkably, TSA treatment caused the complete release of HDAC3 from the ULBP1-3 promoters. HDAC3 is recruited to the ULBP1 promoter through its interaction with Sp3 and TSA treatment interfered with this association. Together, we describe a new mechanism by which cancer cells may evade the immune response through the epigenetic modulation of the ULBPs expression and provide a model in which HDAC inhibitors may favour the elimination of transformed cells by increasing the immunogenicity of epithelial tumours.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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