Selective neutralization of IL-12 p40 monomer induces death in prostate cancer cells via IL-12-IFN-γ

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2017 Oct 24;114(43):11482-11487. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1705536114. Epub 2017 Oct 9.


Cancer cells are adept at evading cell death, but the underlying mechanisms are poorly understood. IL-12 plays a critical role in the early inflammatory response to infection and in the generation of T-helper type 1 cells, favoring cell-mediated immunity. IL-12 is composed of two different subunits, p40 and p35. This study underlines the importance of IL-12 p40 monomer (p40) in helping cancer cells to escape cell death. We found that different mouse and human cancer cells produced greater levels of p40 than p40 homodimer (p402), IL-12, or IL-23. Similarly, the serum level of p40 was much greater in patients with prostate cancer than in healthy control subjects. Selective neutralization of p40, but not p402, by mAb stimulated death in different cancer cells in vitro and in vivo in a tumor model. Interestingly, p40 was involved in the arrest of IL-12 receptor (IL-12R) IL-12Rβ1, but not IL-12Rβ2, in the membrane, and that p40 neutralization induced the internalization of IL-12Rβ1 via caveolin and caused cancer cell death via the IL-12-IFN-γ pathway. These studies identify a role of p40 monomer in helping cancer cells to escape cell death via suppression of IL-12Rβ1 internalization.

Keywords: IFN-γ; IL-12; IL-12 p40 monomer; IL-12Rb1; prostate cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Animals
  • Apoptosis
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Humans
  • Interferon-gamma / genetics
  • Interferon-gamma / metabolism*
  • Interleukin-12 / genetics
  • Interleukin-12 / metabolism*
  • Interleukin-12 Subunit p40 / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms, Experimental / metabolism
  • Prostate / metabolism
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / metabolism*


  • Interleukin-12 Subunit p40
  • Interleukin-12
  • Interferon-gamma