The expression on the surface of tumor cells of ligands for the PD-1 inhibitory receptor prevents the antitumor immune response and is considered to be a negative prognostic factor in a variety of solid tumors as well as in hematologic malignancies. To determine if it were possible to analyze PD-L1 with PCR-based methods, we assessed the expression of PD-L1 in primary samples from patients with acute myeloid leukemia, in healthy donors, and in a panel of cell lines, by means of flow cytometry, RT-PCR, and Western blotting. Although the surface density of the protein was not correlated with the amount of expressed full-length mRNA, we found a statistically significant positive correlation between PD-L1 surface density and the ratio of two transcript variants (variant 1/variant 2). Our PCR-based method allows for retrospective examination of PD-L1 surface expression from frozen cDNA samples, without the need for a reference gene. Our results also suggest that variant 2, which is produced by alternative splicing, negatively regulates PD-L1 protein expression on the cell surface. In addition, PD-L1 exposition on the cell surface is clearly associated with a shift of electrophoretic mobility, observed on Western blots. This finding can explain the relatively large variability in PD-L1 apparent molecular weight reported in the literature and offers an alternate means for the assessment of PD-L1 surface expression. Cancer Immunol Res; 4(10); 815–9. ©2016 AACR.
Note: Supplementary data for this article are available at Cancer Immunology Research Online (http://cancerimmunolres.aacrjournals.org/).
- Received March 22, 2016.
- Revision received July 11, 2016.
- Accepted July 25, 2016.
- ©2016 American Association for Cancer Research.