Biology of HLA-G in cancer: a candidate molecule for therapeutic intervention?

Cell Mol Life Sci. 2011 Feb;68(3):417-31. doi: 10.1007/s00018-010-0583-4. Epub 2010 Nov 10.


Although the expression of the non-classical HLA class I molecule HLA-G was first reported to be restricted to the fetal-maternal interface on the extravillous cytotrophoblasts, the distribution of HLA-G in normal tissues appears broader than originally described. HLA-G expression was found in embryonic tissues, in adult immune privileged organs, and in cells of the hematopoietic lineage. More interestingly, under pathophysiological conditions HLA-G antigens may be expressed on various types of malignant cells suggesting that HLA-G antigen expression is one strategy used by tumor cells to escape immune surveillance. In this article, we will focus on HLA-G expression in cancers of distinct histology and its association with the clinical course of diseases, on the underlying molecular mechanisms of impaired HLA-G expression, on the immune tolerant function of HLA-G in tumors, and on the use of membrane-bound and soluble HLA-G as a diagnostic or prognostic biomarker to identify tumors and to monitor disease stage, as well as on the use of HLA-G as a novel therapeutic target in cancer.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic*
  • HLA Antigens / genetics*
  • HLA Antigens / immunology
  • HLA-G Antigens
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I / genetics*
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immune Tolerance
  • Immunologic Surveillance
  • Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Neoplasms / immunology
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Prognosis


  • HLA Antigens
  • HLA-G Antigens
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I