Soluble forms of receptors play distinctive roles in modulating signal-transduction pathways. Soluble CD74 (sCD74) has been identified in sera of inflammatory diseases and implicated in their pathophysiology; however, few relevant data are available in the context of cancer. Here we assessed the composition and production mechanisms, as well as the clinical significance and biological properties, of sCD74 in melanoma. Serum sCD74 levels were significantly elevated in advanced melanoma patients compared with normal healthy donors, and the high ratio of sCD74 to macrophage-migration inhibitory factor (MIF) conferred significant predictive value for prolonged survival in these patients (p = 0.0035). Secretion of sCD74 was observed primarily in melanoma cell lines as well as a THP-1 line of macrophages from monocytes and primary macrophages, especially in response to interferon-γ (IFN-γ). A predominant form that showed clinical relevance was the 25-KDa sCD74, which originated from the 33-KDa isoform of CD74. The release of this sCD74 was regulated by either a disintegrin and metalloproteinase-mediated cell-surface cleavage or cysteine-protease-mediated lysosomal cleavage, depending on cell types. Both recombinant and THP-1 macrophage-released endogenous sCD74 suppressed melanoma cell growth and induced apoptosis under IFN-γ stimulatory conditions via inhibiting the MIF/CD74/AKT-survival pathway. Our findings demonstrate that the interplay between sCD74 and MIF regulates tumor progression and determines patient outcomes in advanced melanoma.
© 2022. The Author(s).