The Merkel Cell Polyomavirus T-Antigens and IL-33/ST2-IL1RAcP Axis: Possible Role in Merkel Cell Carcinoma
AuthorRasheed, Kashif; Moens, Ugo; policastro, benedetta; Johnsen, John Inge; Koljonen, Virve; Sihto, Harri; Lui, Weng-Onn; Sveinbjørnsson, Baldur
Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCPyV) is a causal factor in Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC). The oncogenic potential is mediated through its viral oncoproteins large T-antigen (LT) and small T-antigen (sT). Cytokines produced by tumor cells play an important role in cancer pathogenesis, and viruses affect their expression. Therefore, we compared human cytokine and receptor transcript levels in virus positive (V+) and virus negative (V−) MCC cell lines. Increased expression of IL-33, a potent modulator of tumor microenvironment, was observed in V+ MCC cell lines when compared to V− MCC-13 cells. Transient transfection studies with luciferase reporter plasmids demonstrated that LT and sT stimulated IL-33, ST2/IL1RL1 and IL1RAcP promoter activity. The induction of IL-33 expression was confirmed by transfecting MCC-13 cells with MCPyV LT. Furthermore, recombinant human cytokine domain IL-33 induced activation of MAP kinase and NF-κB pathways, which could be blocked by a ST2 receptor antibody. Immunohistochemical analysis demonstrated a significantly stronger IL-33, ST2, and IL1RAcP expression in MCC tissues compared to normal skin. Of interest, significantly higher IL-33 and IL1RAcP protein levels were observed in MCC patient plasma compared to plasma from healthy controls. Previous studies have demonstrated the implication of the IL33/STL2 pathway in cancer. Because our results revealed a T-antigens-dependent induction of the IL-33/ST2 axis, IL-33/ST2 may play a role in the tumorigenesis of MCPyV-positive MCC. Therefore, neutralizing the IL-33/ST2 axis may present a novel therapeutic approach for MCC patients.