Expression and regulation of interleukins in human head and neck squamous cell carcinoma

Kendra Victoria Woods, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


Patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) demonstrate abnormal cell-mediated immunity which is most pronounced at the primary tumor site. Therefore, we tested whether this aberrant immunity could be due to tumor-derived cytokines. We investigated the presence of cytokine mRNA and protein in 8 HNSCC-derived cell lines; RT-PCR results indicated mRNA's for IL-1$\alpha$ and TGF-$\alpha$ (8/8), TGF-$\beta$ (7/8), IL-1$\beta$ (7/8), IL-4 and IL-6 (4/8). IL-2, IFN-$\gamma,$ and TNF-$\alpha$ mRNA was not detected. Supernatants from 6 of these cell lines were analyzed by ELISA and IL-1$\alpha,$ IL-1$\beta,$ and IL-6 were markedly increased compared to HPV-16 immortalized human oral keratinocytes. IL-1$\alpha$ was found in the highest concentration $>$IL-6 $>$ IL-1$\beta.$ To approach the mechanisms of cytokine regulation, 4 cell lines were compared for HPV DNA presence, p53 status, and cytokine expression. An association between HPV DNA and cytokine expression was not found. However, cell lines secreting the most IL-6 had mutant p53 and/or HPV 16 E6/E7 expression. Further regulatory investigations revealed that exogenous IL-1$\alpha$ and/or IL-1$\beta$ minimally stimulated the proliferation of 2/3 cell lines, as well as strongly induced IL-6 production in 3/3; this effect was completely abrogated by IL-1Ra. IL-1Ra also inhibited the secretion of IL-1$\alpha$ and IL-1$\beta$ in 2/3 cell lines. These data suggest an IL-1 autocrine loop in certain HNSCC cell lines. Because IL-2 induces IL-1 and is used in therapy of HNSCC, the expression of IL-2 receptor was also investigated; IL-2 $\alpha$ and $\beta$ subunits were detected in 3/3 cell lines and $\gamma$ subunits was detected in one. Exogenous IL-2 inhibited the proliferation, but stimulated the secretion of IL-1$\alpha$ in 2/3, and IL-1$\beta$ and IL-6 in 1/3 cell lines. To determine if our cell line findings were applicable to patients, immunohistochemistry was performed on biopsies from 12 invasive tumors. Unexpectedly, universal intracellular production of IL-1$\alpha,$ IL-1$\beta,$ and IL-6 protein was detected. Therefore, the aberrant elaboration of biologically active IL-1 and IL-6 may contribute to altered immune status in HNSCC patients.

Subject Area

Immunology|Oncology|Molecular biology

Recommended Citation

Woods, Kendra Victoria, "Expression and regulation of interleukins in human head and neck squamous cell carcinoma" (1995). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI9717011.