KPNB1-mediated nuclear translocation of PD-L1 promotes non-small cell lung cancer cell proliferation via the Gas6/MerTK signaling pathway

Lung Cancer

Cell Death Differ. 2020 Nov 2. doi: 10.1038/s41418-020-00651-5. Online ahead of print.


In addition to the role of programmed cell death ligand 1 (PD-L1) in facilitating tumour cells escape from immune surveillance, it is considered as a crucial effector in transducing intrinsic signals to promote tumour development. Our previous study has pointed out that PD-L1 promotes non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cell proliferation, but the mechanism remains elusive. Here we first demonstrated that PD-L1 expression levels were positively correlated with p-MerTK levels in patient samples

and NSCLC cell lines. In addition, PD-L1 knockdown led to the reduced phosphorylation level of MerTK in vitro. We next showed that PD-L1 regulated NSCLC cell proliferation via Gas6/MerTK signaling pathway in vitro and in vivo. To investigate the underlying mechanism, we unexpectedly found that PD-L1 translocated into the nucleus of cancer cells which was facilitated through the binding of Karyopherin β1 (KPNB1). Nuclear PD-L1 (nPD-L1), coupled with transcription factor Sp1, regulated the synthesis of Gas6 mRNA and promoted Gas6 secretion to activate MerTK signaling pathway. Taken together, our results shed light on the novel role of nPD-L1 in NSCLC cell proliferation and reveal a new molecular mechanism underlying nPD-L1-mediated Gas6/MerTK signaling activation. All above findings provide the possible combinational implications for PD-L1 targeted immunotherapy in the clinic.