Introduction: In lung cancer, interleukin-22 (IL-22) expression within primary tissue has been demonstrated, but the frequency and the functional consequence of IL-22 signaling have not been addressed. This study aims at analyzing the cellular effects of IL-22 on lung carcinoma cell lines and the prognostic impact of IL-22 tissue expression in lung cancer patients.
Methods: Biological effects of IL-22 signaling were investigated in seven lung cancer cell lines by Western blot, flow cytometry, real-time polymerase chain reaction, and proliferation assays. Tumor tissue specimens of two cohorts with a total of 2300 lung cancer patients were tested for IL-22 expression by immunohistochemistry. IL-22 serum concentrations were analyzed in 103 additional patients by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay.
Results: We found the IL-22 receptor 1 (IL-22-R1) to be expressed in six of seven lung cancer cell lines. However IL-22 signaling was functional in only four cell lines, where IL-22 induced signal transducer activator of transcription 3 phosphorylation and increased cell proliferation. Furthermore, IL-22 induced the expression of antiapoptotic B-cell lymphoma 2, but did not rescue tumor cells from carboplatin-induced apoptosis. Cisplatin-resistant cell lines showed a significant up-regulation of IL-22-R1 along with a stronger proliferative response to IL-22 stimulation. IL-22 was preferentially expressed in small- and large-cell lung carcinoma (58% and 46% of cases, respectively). However, no correlation between IL-22 expression by immunohistochemistry and prognosis was observed.
Conclusion: IL-22 is frequently expressed in lung cancer tissue. Enhanced IL-22-R1 expression and signaling in chemotherapy-refractory cell lines are indicative of a protumorigenic function of IL-22 and may contribute to a more aggressive phenotype.