PD-L1 Dependent Immunogenic Landscape in Hot Lung Adenocarcinomas Identified by Transcriptome Analysis

Cancers (Basel). 2021 Sep 11;13(18):4562. doi: 10.3390/cancers13184562.


Background: Lung cancer is the most frequent cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide. The clinical development of immune checkpoint blockade has dramatically changed the treatment paradigm for patients with lung cancer. Yet, an improved understanding of PD-1/PD-L1 checkpoint blockade-responsive biology is warranted.

Methods: We aimed to identify the landscape of immune cell infiltration in primary lung adenocarcinoma (LUAD) in the context of tumoral PD-L1 expression and the extent of immune infiltration ("hot" vs. "cold" phenotype). The study comprises LUAD cases (n = 138) with "hot" (≥150 lymphocytes/HPF) and "cold" (<150 lymphocytes/HPF) tumor immune phenotype and positive (>50%) and negative (<1%) tumor PD-L1 expression, respectively. Tumor samples were immunohistochemically analyzed for expression of PD-L1, CD4, and CD8, and further investigated by transcriptome analysis.

Results: Gene set enrichment analysis defined complement, IL-JAK-STAT signaling, KRAS signaling, inflammatory response, TNF-alpha signaling, interferon-gamma response, interferon-alpha response, and allograft rejection as significantly upregulated pathways in the PD-L1-positive hot subgroup. Additionally, we demonstrated that STAT1 is upregulated in the PD-L1-positive hot subgroup and KIT in the PD-L1-negative hot subgroup.

Conclusion: The presented study illustrates novel aspects of PD-L1 regulation, with potential biological relevance, as well as relevance for immunotherapy response stratification.

Keywords: cold; hot; immune phenotype; lung adenocarcinoma (LUAD); programmed cell death-ligand 1 (PD-L1); protein; transcriptome.