Background: Programmed death ligand-1 (PD-L1) has been identified as a factor associated with poor prognosis in a range of cancers, and was reported to be mainly induced by PTEN loss in gliomas. However, the clinical effect of PD-L1 and its regulation by PTEN has not yet been determined in colorectal cancer (CRC). In the present study, we verified the regulation of PTEN on PD-L1 and further determined the effect of PTEN on the correlation between PD-L1 expression and clinical parameters in CRC.
Methods/results: RNA interference approach was used to down-regulate PTEN expression in SW480, SW620 and HCT116 cells. It was showed that PD-L1 protein, but not mRNA, was significantly increased in cells transfected with siRNA PTEN compared with the negative control. Moreover, the capacity of PTEN to regulate PD-L1 expression was not obviously affected by IFN-γ, the main inducer of PD-L1. Tissue microarray immunohistochemistry was used to detect PD-L1 and PTEN in 404 CRC patient samples. Overexpression of PD-L1 was significantly correlated with distant metastasis (P<0.001), TNM stage (P<0.01), metastatic progression (P<0.01) and PTEN expression (P<0.001). Univariate analysis revealed that patients with high PD-L1 expression had a poor overall survival (P<0.001). However, multivariate analysis did not support PD-L1 as an independent prognostic factor (P = 0.548). Univariate (P<0.001) and multivariate survival (P<0.001) analysis of 310 located CRC patients revealed that high level of PD-L1 expression was associated with increased risks of metastatic progression. Furthermore, the clinical effect of PD-L1 on CRC was not statistically significant in a subset of 39 patients with no PTEN expression (distant metastasis: P = 0.102; TNM stage: P = 0.634, overall survival: P = 0.482).
Conclusions: PD-L1 can be used to identify CRC patients with high risk of metastasis and poor prognosis. This clinical manifestation may be partly associated with PTEN expression.