The impact of Hashimoto's thyroiditis (HT) on the progression of papillary thyroid cancer (PTC) is still unclear. Interleukin-2 (IL-2) is a growth factor and crucial for HT development. This study aimed at investigating the effect of IL-2 on MHC class I expression in PTC cells and immune activation with experimental treatment for PTC using PTC cell lines. We assessed the expression of IL-2, HLA class I, PD-L1, CD3, CD8 and CD16 molecules in paired PTC tissues and HLA-ABC and PD-L1 expression in IL-2 pre-treated K1, TPC-1 and BCPAP cells by immunohistochemistry, qPCR, flow cytometry and Western blotting. The effect of IL-2 on immunogenicity of PTC cells to stimulate activated human T cells was determined for the percentages of activated CD8+ T cells and their cytokine production as well as PD-1 and PD-L1 expression. Compared with non-tumor tissues, we found that IL-2 expression was up-regulated in PTC tissues, particularly in PTC+HT tissues and correlated positively with HLA-class I, CD3 and CD8 expression in PTC+HT tissues. Conversely, PD-L1 expression decreased in PTC+HT tissues. Treatment with IL-2 significantly up-regulated HLA-class I expression, but down-regulated PD-L1 expression in PTC cells. Co-culture with IL-2-pre-treated PTC cells significantly promoted the proliferation of activated CD8+ T cells and their IL-2 secretion, but decreased their PD-1 expression, accompanied by decreased PD-L1 expression in IL-2-treated PTC cells in vitro. In conclusion, IL-2 up-regulated HLA-class I expression and enhanced anti-tumor T cell immunity during the development of PTC and HT. IL-2 may be a promising immunotherapy for PTC.
Keywords: CD8+ T cell immunity; HLA-class I molecule; Hashimoto's thyroiditis; IL-2; papillary thyroid cancer.
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