Growth-inhibitory effects of CD40 ligand (CD154) and its endogenous expression in human breast cancer

Alex W. Tong, Maria H. Papayoti, Drew T. Armstrong, Guido Ordonez, J. Mark Lawson, Marvin J. Stone, George Netto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

101 Scopus citations


CD40 binding produces multifaceted growth signals in normal and malignant B cells, whereas its physiological role is less well characterized in epithelial cancers. We examined the growth outcome of CD40 ligation in human breast cancer cells, using CD40+ (T47D and BT-20) and CD40-negative (MCF-7, ZR-75-1) cell lines as defined by flow cytometric analysis, immunohistochemistry, and reverse transcription-PCR. Treatment with the soluble recombinant CD40 ligand (CD40L) molecules gp39 or CD40L-trimer significantly reduced [3H]thymidine uptake in BT-20 and T47D cells by up to 40%, but did not affect the growth of CD40-negative MCF-7 or ZR-75-1 cells. Similarly, significant growth inhibition was observed after coincubation with CD40L-transfected murine L cells (55.0 ± 8.9%, P & 0.001) that express membrane CD40L constitutively, or with paraformaldehyde-fixed, CD3+ CD40L+ PBLs from three different HLA-mismatched donors (39.7 ± 3.7%, P & 0.01). Untransfected L cells and non-CD40L-expressing lymphocytes did not produce significant growth inhibition. The in vivo antitumorigenic effects of CD40L were examined using a s.c. severe combined immunodeficient-hu xenograft model. Pretreatment with two different soluble recombinant CD40L constructs (CD40L and gp39) produced similar xenograft growth-inhibitory effects [67 ± 24% (n = 4), and 65 ± 14% (n = 8) inhibition, respectively], which were reversed by cotreatment with the CD40L-neutralizing antibody LL48. In vitro analysis indicated that CD40L-induced growth inhibition was accompanied by apoptotic events including cell shrinkage, rounding, and detachment from the adherent T47D culture monolayer. Thirty-one and 27% of gp39-treated T47D and BT-20 cells underwent apoptosis, respectively, as compared with 56 and 65% from the same cell lines after treatment with the Fas agonistic antibody CH-11. An up-regulation of the proapoptotic protein Bax in T47D and BT-20 cells was observed, which indicated that this Bcl-2 family member may contribute to this growth-inhibitory effect. To explore the clinical relevance of CD40L-CD40 interaction, retrospective immunohistochemical analysis was carried to characterize in situ CD40- and CD40L-expression in breast cancer patient biopsies. All of the infiltrating ductal (5 of 5 cases tested) and lobular (4 of 4 cases) breast carcinomas, carcinomas in situ (6 of 6 cases), and mucinous carcinoma tested (1 case) expressed CD40. Varying proportions of tumor cells also expressed CD40L in the majority of infiltrating ductal (3 of 5 cases) and lobular (3 of 4 cases) carcinomas, and carcinomas in situ (4 of 6 cases), as determined by immunohistochemistry and validated by RT-PCR detection of the CD40L message in only CD40L positive-staining cases. Tumor infiltrating mononuclear cells from infiltrating carcinomas and carcinomas in situ expressed CD40 (10 of 10 cases), but less commonly CD40L (1 case of infiltrating lobular carcinoma, 2 cases of carcinoma in situ). Our findings indicate that the CD40 signaling pathway is active in human breast carcinoma cells. However, tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes from primary tumor tissues may be limited in their capacity to directly modulate tumor growth through the CD40L-CD40 loop.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)691-703
Number of pages13
JournalClinical Cancer Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 1 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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