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Clin Cancer Res. 2011 Jul 1;17(13):4232-44. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-10-2660. Epub 2011 May 3.

Programmed death ligand 1 is expressed by non-hodgkin lymphomas and inhibits the activity of tumor-associated T cells.

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Division of Hematology & Oncology, Department of Medicine, and Department of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California, USA.



Programmed death ligand 1 (PD-L1) is expressed on antigen-presenting cells and inhibits activation of T cells through its receptor PD-1. PD-L1 is aberrantly expressed on some epithelial malignancies and Hodgkin lymphomas and may prevent effective host antitumor immunity. The role of PD-L1 in non-Hodgkin lymphomas (NHL) is not well characterized.


PD-L1 expression was analyzed in cell lines and lymphoma specimens by using flow cytometry and immunohistochemistry. Functional activity of PD-L1 was studied by incubating irradiated lymphoma cells with allogeneic T cells with or without anti-PD-L1 blocking antibody; T-cell proliferation and IFN-γ secretion served as measures of T-cell activation. Similar experiments were conducted using cultures of primary lymphoma specimens containing host T cells.


PD-L1 was expressed uniformly by anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL) cell lines, but rarely in B-cell NHL, confined to a subset of diffuse large B-cell lymphomas (DLBCL) with activated B-cell features (3 of 28 cell lines and 24% of primary DLBCL). Anti-PD-L1 blocking antibody boosted proliferation and IFN-γ secretion by allogeneic T cells responding to ALCL and DLBCL cells. In autologous cultures of primary ALCL and DLBCL, PD-L1 blockade enhanced secretion of inflammatory cytokines IFN-γ, granulocyte macrophage colony-stimulating factor, interleukin (IL)-1, IL-6, IL-8, IL-13, TNF-α, and macrophage inflammatory protein-1α. In establishing cell lines from an aggressive PD-L1(+) mature B-cell lymphoma, we also noted that PD-L1 expression could be lost under certain in vitro culture conditions.


PD-L1 may thwart effective antitumor immune responses and represents an attractive target for lymphoma immunotherapy.

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