Interference with pathways activated by topoisomerase inhibition alters the surface expression of PD-L1 and MHC I in colon cancer cells

Mohamed Hassan, Vu Trung, Deepa Bedi, Sage Shaddox, Dilip Gunturu, Clayton Yates, Pran Datta, Temesgen Samuel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Topoisomerase inhibitors are clinically used to treat various cancer types, including colorectal cancer. These drugs also activate signaling pathways that modulate cell survival and immune cell functions. Immunotherapy is promising for certain tumors, including microsatellite instable colorectal cancer, but not for microsatellite stable colorectal cancer. The reasons for this lack of responsiveness are largely unknown. Understanding how colorectal cancer cell-surface proteins interact with tumor-resident immune cells may offer an opportunity to identify molecules that, if targeted, may render tumor cells visible to immune cells. The present study used flow cytometry, fluorescent staining and immunoblotting to examine if inhibition of pathways activated by topoisomerase-targeting drugs may modulate the outcomes of treatment through effects on cell cycle arrest and apoptosis, and by altering surface expression levels of programmed death-ligand 1 (PD-L1) or major histocompat- ibility complex protein I (MHC I). Inhibition of either NF-κB or DNA-damage response (DDR) potently enhanced cell death in combination with topoisomerase inhibition, while only NF-κB inhibition increased MHC I. PD-L1 upregulation was moderately affected by NF-κB or DDR inhibitors, while both topoisomerase inhibitors and DNA damaging agents may enhance the surface expression of MHC I molecules on colon cancer cells. Such enhanced expression of MHC I may be suppressed by inhibitors of ataxia-telangiectasia mutated or checkpoint kinase kinases. Additionally, adaptive toler- ance to topoisomerase inhibition caused altered cell cycle response, and reduced the expression levels of both PD-L1 and MHC I on both microsatellite instable and stable colon cancer cell lines. Therefore, targeted modulation of DDR pathways, PD-L1, MHC I or other immune regulators in colon cancer cells may make them more visible to immune cells and enable rational combination of conventional therapy with immunotherapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number41
JournalOncology Letters
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • DNA damage
  • NF-κB
  • chemotherapy
  • colorectal cancer
  • major histocompatibility complex
  • programmed death-ligand 1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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