Upregulated expression of NKG2D and its ligands give potential therapeutic targets for patients with thymoma.Cancer Gene Ther. 2015 Jul; 22(7):368-74.CG
The activating receptor NKG2D (natural killer group 2, member D) of natural killer (NK) cells promotes tumor immune surveillance by targeting ligands selectively induced on cancer cells, and thus having an important role in antitumor immune response. Because these ligands are not widely expressed on healthy adult tissue, NKG2D ligands may present as useful target for immunotherapeutic approaches in cancer. In this study, to elucidate the role of NKG2D-NKG2D ligand interaction in thymoma tissues and to evaluate the potential role of NKG2D ligands as therapeutic target for thymoma, we examined the expression of NKG2D and its specific ligands: MICA (major histocompatibility complex class I chain-related protein A), MICB (major histocompatibility complex class I chain-related protein B) and ULBP (UL16-binding protein) in 36 thymomas (6 subtype A, 6 subtype AB, 8 subtype B1, 5 subtype B2, 6 subtype B3 and 5 subtype C), 15 thymic atrophy and 8 thymic hyperplasia by immunohistochemistry and reverse transcription-real-time-PCR methods. We demonstrated that both mRNA and protein levels of NKG2D, MICA, MICB and ULBP were upregulated in six types of thymomas compared with those in atrophic thymus or proliferating thymus. Furthermore, the NKG2D ligands were found to be frequently coexpressed on thymoma cells. Furthermore, the expression of MICA, MICB and ULBP in subtype C was higher compared with those in subtype A, AB, B1, B2 and B3. Thus, we concluded that high expressions of NKG2D, MICA, MICB and ULBP1 were shown in patients with thymoma, and this may enhance the recognition function of NK cells to eliminate tumor cells. MICA, MICB and ULBP presented an attractive target for thymoma therapy. The abnormal expression of NKG2D, MICA, MICB and ULBP1 can provide us with evidence of the occurrence of thymoma and could also be used as a target in the treatment of thymoma.