Human leukocyte antigen G (HLA-G) has multiple immune regulatory functions including the induction of immune tolerance in malignancies. The roles of HLA-G have not been investigated in nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC). This study is aimed to evaluate the role of HLA-G as prognostic factor for NPC patients as well as its role in the immune regulation. Western assays showed high HLA-G expression in NPC cell lines, but low in the immortalized nasopharyngeal epithelial cell line NP69. HLA-G protein was further detected in 79.2% of 552 NPC specimens with immunohistochemistry (IHC), but not in normal nasopharyngeal epithelium tissue. Moreover, high expression of HLA-G predicted poor survival of NPC patients and positively correlated with tumor N classification and recurrence or metastasis. Multivariate analysis indicated that HLA-G was an independent and unfavorable prognostic factor. Furthermore, the presence of CD68+ macrophages and IL-10 were also examined, which are two prognostic markers of NPC and important factors for regulating immune surveillance. The correlations of HLA-G with these two immune factors were revealed in NPC tissues. Taken together, our results suggest that HLA-G is an independent biomarker for NPC prognosis, and HLA-G might contribute to NPC progression, which might jointly regulate immune surveillance in NPC together with macrophages and IL-10.
Keywords: HLA-G; IL-10; Nasopharyngeal carcinoma; Prognosis; macrophage.