Cultured melanoma cells release soluble factors that influence immune responses. Screening of a cDNA library with anti-sera from a melanoma patient identified an immunoreactive plaque, which encoded heavy-chain ferritin (H-ferritin). Previous studies have drawn attention to the immunosuppressive effects of this molecule and prompted further studies on its biochemical and functional properties in human melanoma. These studies demonstrated, firstly, that H-ferritin appeared to be secreted by melanoma cells, as shown by immunoprecipitation of a 21.5 kDa band from supernatants. It was also detected in extracts of melanoma cells by Western blotting as 43 and 64 kDa dimers and trimers of the 21.5 kDa fraction. Secondly, flow-cytometric analysis of H- and light-chain ferritin (L-ferritin) expression on melanoma showed a wide variation in L-ferritin expression and consequently of the ratio of H- to L-ferritin expression. Suppression of mitogenic responses of lymphocytes to anti-CD3 showed a correlation with the ratio of H- to L-ferritin in the supernatants and was specific for H-ferritin, as shown by inhibition studies with a monoclonal antibody (MAb) against H-ferritin. Similar results were obtained with H- and L-ferritin from other sources. Suppression of mitogenic responses of lymphocytes to anti-CD3 by H-ferritin was inhibited using a MAb against IL-10, which suggested that the immunosuppressive effect of H-ferritin was mediated by IL-10. Assays of cytokine production from anti-CD3-stimulated lymphocytes showed that H-ferritin markedly increased production of IL-10 and IFN-gamma and had only slight effects on IL-2 and IL-4 production. Our results suggest that melanoma cells may be a major source of H-ferritin and that production of the latter may account for some of the immunosuppressive effects of melanoma.
Copyright 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.