HLA-dependent tumour development: a role for tumour associate macrophages?

J Transl Med. 2013 Oct 6;11:247. doi: 10.1186/1479-5876-11-247.


HLA abnormalities on tumour cells for immune escape have been widely described. In addition, cellular components of the tumour microenvironment, in particular myeloid derived suppressor cells (MDSC) and alternatively activated M2 tumour-associated macrophages (TAMs), are involved in tumour promotion, progression, angiogenesis and suppression of anti-tumour immunity. However, the role of HLA in these activities is poorly understood. This review details MHC class I characteristics and describes MHC class I receptors functions. This analysis established the basis for a reflection about the crosstalk among the tumour cells, the TAMs and the cells mediating an immune response.The tumour cells and TAMs exploit MHC class I molecules to modulate the surrounding immune cells. HLA A, B, C and G molecules down-regulate the macrophage myeloid activation through the interaction with the inhibitory LILRB receptors. HLA A, B, C are able to engage inhibitory KIR receptors negatively regulating the Natural Killer and cytotoxic T lymphocytes function while HLA-G induces the secretion of pro-angiogenic cytokines and chemokine thanks to an activator KIR receptor expressed by a minority of peripheral NK cells. The open conformer of classical MHC-I is able to interact with LILRA receptors described as being associated to the Th2-type cytokine response, triggering a condition for the M2 like TAM polarization. In addition, HLA-E antigens on the surface of the TAMs bind the inhibitory receptor CD94/NKG2A expressed by a subset of NK cells and activated cytotoxic T lymphocytes protecting from the cytolysis.Furthermore MHC class II expression by antigen presenting cells is finely regulated by factors provided with immunological capacities. Tumour-associated macrophages show an epigenetically controlled down-regulation of the MHC class II expression induced by the decoy receptor DcR3, a member of the TNFR, which further enhances the M2-like polarization. BAT3, a positive regulator of MHC class II expression in normal macrophages, seems to be secreted by TAMs, consequently lacking its intracellular function, it looks like acting as an immunosuppressive factor.In conclusion HLA could cover a considerable role in tumour-development orchestrated by tumour-associated macrophages.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • HLA Antigens / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Macrophages / immunology*
  • Macrophages / pathology*
  • Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Receptors, Immunologic / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction


  • HLA Antigens
  • Receptors, Immunologic