Deficient natural killer cell NKp30-mediated function and altered NCR3 splice variants in hepatocellular carcinoma

Stefania Mantovani, Barbara Oliviero, Andrea Lombardi, Stefania Varchetta, Dalila Mele, Angelo Sangiovanni, Giorgio Rossi, Matteo Donadon, Guido Torzilli, Cristiana Soldani, Camillo Porta, Paolo Pedrazzoli, Silvia Chiellino, Roberto Santambrogio, Enrico Opocher, Marcello Maestri, Stefano Bernuzzi, Armando Rossello, Sophie Clément, Claudio De VitoLaura Rubbia-Brandt, Francesco Negro, Mario U Mondelli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

The activating natural cytotoxicity receptor NKp30 is critical for natural killer (NK) cell function and tumor immune surveillance. The natural cytotoxicity receptor-3 (NCR3) gene is transcribed into several splice variants whose physiological relevance is still incompletely understood. In this study, we investigated the role of NKp30 and its major ligand B7 homolog 6 (B7-H6) in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Peripheral blood NK cell phenotype was skewed toward a defective/exhausted immune profile with decreased frequencies of cells expressing NKp30 and natural killer group 2 member d (NKG2D) and an increased proportion of cells expressing T-cell immunoglobulin and mucin-domain containing-3 (Tim-3). Moreover, NKp30-positive NK cells had a reduced expression of NCR3 immunostimulatory splice variants, and an increased expression of the inhibitory variant in patients with advanced tumor, resulting in deficient NKp30-mediated functionality. Tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes showed a prevalent inhibitory NKp30 isoform profile, consistent with decreased NKp30-mediated function. Of note, there were significant differences in the cytokine milieu between the neoplastic and the surrounding non-neoplastic tissue which may have further influenced NKp30 function. Exposure of NK cells to B7-H6 expressing HCC cells significantly down-modulated NKp30, that was prevented by siRNA-mediated knockdown, suggesting a role for this ligand in inhibiting NKp30-mediated responses. Interestingly, B7-H6 expression was reduced in HCC tissue and simultaneously augmented as a soluble form in HCC patients', particularly those with advanced staging or larger nodule size.

CONCLUSIONS: these findings provide evidence in support of a role of NKp30 and its major ligand in HCC development and evolution. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
JournalHepatology
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - Aug 28 2018

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