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Blood. 2018 Nov 1;132(18):1922-1935. doi: 10.1182/blood-2018-04-845834. Epub 2018 Sep 7.

Aberrant CD137 ligand expression induced by GATA6 overexpression promotes tumor progression in cutaneous T-cell lymphoma.

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Department of Dermatology, Graduate School of Medicine, University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan; and.
Department of Dermatology, International University of Health and Welfare, Chiba, Japan.


CD137 and its ligand, CD137L, are expressed on activated T cells and antigen-presenting cells, respectively. Recent studies have shown that CD137L and CD137 are aberrantly expressed by tumor cells, especially in some hematopoietic malignancies, and interactions between these molecules on tumor cells promote tumor growth. In this study, we investigated the roles of CD137L and CD137 in cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL), represented by mycosis fungoides and Sézary syndrome. Flow cytometric analysis showed that primary Sézary cells and CTCL cell lines (Hut78, MyLa, HH, SeAx, and MJ) aberrantly expressed CD137L. CD137L expression by tumor cells in CTCL was also confirmed by immunohistochemistry. Anti-CD137L-neutralizing antibody inhibited proliferation, survival, CXCR4-mediated migration, and in vivo growth in CTCL cell lines through inhibition of phosphorylation of AKT, extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2, p38 MAPK, and JNK. Moreover, suppression of CD137L signaling decreased antiapoptotic proteins Bcl-2 and phosphorylated Bad. We also explored the transcription factor regulating CD137L expression. Because GATA6 has been proposed as an oncogene in many types of tumors with aberrant CD137L expression, we examined GATA6 expression and the involvement of GATA6 in CD137L expression in CTCL. DNA hypomethylation and histone acetylation induced GATA6 overexpression in CTCL cells. Furthermore, chromatin immunoprecipitation, luciferase reporter assay, and knockdown by short hairpin RNA showed that GATA6 directly upregulated CD137L expression. Inhibition of GATA6 resulted in decreased survival and in vivo growth in CTCL cells. Collectively, our findings prompt a novel therapeutic approach to CTCL based on the discovery that the GATA6/CD137L axis plays an important role in the tumorigenesis of CTCL.

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