Neoplasia, December 2008, Vol.10(12), pp.1402-1410
Prolonged treatment of leukemic cells with chemotherapeutic agents frequently results in development of drug resistance. Moreover, selection of drug-resistant cell populations may be associated with changes in malignant properties such as proliferation rate, invasiveness, and immunogenicity. In the present study, the sensitivity of cytarabine (1-β- -arabinofuranosylcytosine, araC)-resistant and parental human leukemic cell lines (T-lymphoid H9 and acute T-lymphoblastic leukemia Molt-4) to natural killer (NK) cell-mediated killing was investigated. The results obtained demonstrate that araC-resistant H9 and Molt-4 (H9 ARAC and Molt-4 ARAC ) cell lines are more sensitive to NK cell-mediated lysis than their respective parental cell lines. This increased sensitivity was associated with a higher surface expression of ligands for the NK cell-activating receptor NKG2D, notably UL16 binding protein-2 (ULBP-2) and ULBP-3 in H9 ARAC and Molt-4 ARAC cell lines. Blocking ULBP-2 and ULBP-3 or NKG2D with monoclonal antibody completely abrogated NK cell lysis. Constitutive phosphorylated extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) but not pAKT was higher in araC-resistant cells than in parental cell lines. Inhibition of ERK using ERK inhibitor PD98059 decreased both ULBP-2/ULBP-3 expression and NK cell cytotoxicity. Furthermore, overexpression of constitutively active ERK in H9 parental cells resulted in increased ULBP-2/ULBP-3 expression and enhanced NK cell lysis. These results demonstrate that increased sensitivity of araC-resistant leukemic cells to NK cell lysis is caused by higher NKG2D ligand expression, resulting from more active ERK signaling pathway.
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