Mutations of the von Hippel-Lindau gene confer increased susceptibility to natural killer cells of clear-cell renal cell carcinoma

A. Perier, G. Fregni, S. Wittnebel, S. Gad, M. Allard, N. Gervois, B. Escudier, B. Azzarone, A. Caignard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The tumor suppressor gene von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) is involved in the development of sporadic clear-cell renal cell carcinoma (RCC). VHL interferes with angiogenesis and also controls cell adhesion and invasion. Therapies that target VHL-controlled genes are currently being evaluated in RCC patients. RCC is a immunogenic tumor and treatment with interleukin-2 (IL2) or interferon (IFN)-α results in regression in some patients. We used two renal tumor cell lines (RCC6 and RCC4) carrying VHL loss-of-function mutations to investigate the role of mutant VHL in susceptibility to natural killer (NK) cell-mediated lysis. The RCC6 and RCC4 cell lines were transfected with the wild-type gene to restore the function of VHL. The presence of the gene in RCC cells downregulated hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF)-1α and subsequently decreased vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) production. Relative to control transfectants and parental cells, pVHL-transfected cell lines activated resting and IL2-activated NK cells less strongly, as assessed by IFNγ secretion, NK degranulation and cell lysis. NKG2A, a human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-I-specific inhibitory NK receptor, controls the lysis of tumor targets. We show that HLA-I expression in RCC-pVHL cells is stronger than that in parental and controls cells, although the expression of activating receptor NK ligands remains unchanged. Blocking NKG2A/HLA-I interactions substantially increased lysis of RCC-pVHL, but had little effect on the lysis of VHL-mutated RCC cell lines. In addition, in response to IFNα, the exponential growth of RCC-pVHL was inhibited more than that of RCC-pE cells, indicating that VHL mutations may be involved in IFNα resistance. These results indicate that a decreased expression of HLA-I molecules in mutated VHL renal tumor cells sensitizes them to NK-mediated lysis. These results suggest that combined immunotherapy with anti-angiogenic drugs may be beneficial for patients with mutated VHL.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2622-2632
Number of pages11
Issue number23
Publication statusPublished - Jun 9 2011


  • immunotherapy
  • NK cells
  • renal cell carcinoma
  • von Hippel-Lindau mutation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cancer Research
  • Genetics


Dive into the research topics of 'Mutations of the von Hippel-Lindau gene confer increased susceptibility to natural killer cells of clear-cell renal cell carcinoma'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this