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PLoS One. 2018 Feb 23;13(2):e0193429. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0193429. eCollection 2018.

Dysregulation of the IFN-γ-STAT1 signaling pathway in a cell line model of large granular lymphocyte leukemia.

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University of Virginia Cancer Center, University of Virginia; Charlottesville, VA United States of America.
Department of Medicine, Division of Hematology/Oncology, University of Virginia; Charlottesville, VA United States of America.
Department of Pathology, University of Virginia; Charlottesville, VA United States of America.


T cell large granular lymphocyte leukemia (T-LGLL) is a rare incurable disease that is characterized by defective apoptosis of cytotoxic CD8+ T cells. Chronic activation of the Janus Kinase-Signal Transducer and Activator of Transcription (JAK-STAT) pathway is a hallmark of T-LGLL. One manifestation is the constitutive phosphorylation of tyrosine 701 of STAT1 (p-STAT1). T-LGLL patients also exhibit elevated serum levels of the STAT1 activator, interferon-γ (IFN-γ), thus contributing to an inflammatory environment. In normal cells, IFN-γ production is tightly controlled through induction of IFN-γ negative regulators. However, in T-LGLL, IFN-γ signaling lacks this negative feedback mechanism as evidenced by excessive IFN-γ production and decreased levels of suppressors of cytokine signaling 1 (SOCS1), a negative regulator of IFN-γ. Here we characterize the IFN-γ-STAT1 pathway in TL-1 cells, a cell line model of T-LGLL. TL-1 cells exhibited lower IFN-γ receptor protein and mRNA expression compared to an IFN-γ responsive cell line. Furthermore, IFN-γ treatment did not induce JAK2 or STAT1 activation or transcription of IFN-γ-inducible gene targets. However, IFN-β induced p-STAT1 and subsequent STAT1 gene transcription, demonstrating a specific IFN-γ signaling defect in TL-1 cells. We utilized siRNA targeting of STAT1, STAT3, and STAT5b to probe their role in IL-2-mediated IFN-γ regulation. These studies identified STAT5b as a positive regulator of IFN-γ production. We also characterized the relationship between STAT1, STAT3, and STAT5b proteins. Surprisingly, p-STAT1 was positively correlated with STAT3 levels while STAT5b suppressed the activation of both STAT1 and STAT3. Taken together, these results suggest that the dysregulation of the IFN-γ-STAT1 signaling pathway in TL-1 cells likely results from low levels of the IFN-γ receptor. The resulting inability to induce negative feedback regulators explains the observed elevated IL-2 driven IFN-γ production. Future work will elucidate the best way to target this pathway, with the ultimate goal to find a better therapeutic for T-LGLL.

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