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Background: The links between the p53/MDM2 pathway and the expression of pro-oncogenic immune inhibitory receptors in tumor cells are undefined. In this report, we evaluate whether there is p53 and/or MDM2 dependence in the expression of two key immune receptors, CD276 and PD-L1. Methods: Proximity ligation assays were used to quantify protein-protein interactions in situ in response to Nutlin-3. A panel of p53-null melanoma cells was created using CRISPR-Cas9 guide RNA mediated genetic ablation. Flow cytometric analyses were used to assess the impact of TP53 or ATG5 gene ablation, as well as the effects of Nutlin-3 and an ATM inhibitor on cell surface PD-L1 and CD276. Targeted siRNA was used to deplete CD276 to assess changes in cell cycle parameters by flow cytometry. A T-cell proliferation assay was used to assess activity of CD4+ T-cells as a function of ATG5 genotype. Results: CD276 forms protein-protein interactions with MDM2 in response to Nutlin-3, similar to the known MDM2 interactors p53 and HSP70. Isogenic HCT116 p53-wt/null cancer cells demonstrated that CD276 is induced on the cell surface by Nutlin-3 in a p53-dependent manner. PD-L1 was also unexpectedly induced by Nutlin-3, but PD-L1 does not bind MDM2. The ATM inhibitor KU55993 reduced the levels of PD-L1 under conditions where Nutlin-3 induces PD-L1, indicating that MDM2 and ATM have opposing effects on PD-L1 steady-state levels. PD-L1 is also up-regulated in response to genetic ablation of TP53 in A375 melanoma cell clones under conditions in which CD276 remains unaffected. A549 cells with a deletion in the ATG5 gene up-regulated only PD-L1, further indicating that PD-L1 and CD276 are under distinct genetic control. Conclusion: Genetic inactivation of TP53, or the use of the MDM2 ligand Nutlin-3, alters the expression of the immune blockade receptors PD-L1 and CD276. The biological function of elevated CD276 is to promote altered cell cycle progression in response to Nutlin-3, whilst the major effect of elevated PD-L1 is T-cell suppression. These data indicate that TP53 gene status, ATM and MDM2 influence PD-L1 and CD276 paralogs on the cell surface. These data have implications for the use of drugs that target the p53 pathway as modifiers of immune checkpoint receptor expression.
Li, R., Zatloukalova, P., Muller, P., Gil-Mir, M., Kote, S., Wilkinson, S., … Vojtesek, B. (2020). The MDM2 ligand Nutlin-3 differentially alters expression of the immune blockade receptors PD-L1 and CD276. Cellular and Molecular Biology Letters, 25(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s11658-020-00233-w