Proteasome regulation of ULBP1 transcription

James E. Butler, Mikel B. Moore, Steven R. Presnell, Huei Wei Chan, N. Jan Chalupny, Charles T. Lutz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


Killer lymphocytes recognize stress-activated NKG2D ligands on tumors. We examined NKG2D ligand expression in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) cells and other cell lines. HNSCC cells typically expressed MHC class I chain-related gene A (MICA), MICB, UL16-binding protein (ULBP)2, and ULBP3, but they were uniformly negative for cell surface ULBP1 and ULBP4. We then studied how cancer treatments affected NKG2D ligand expression. NKG2D ligand expression was not changed by most cancer-relevant treatments. However, bortezomib and other proteasome inhibitor drugs with distinct mechanisms of action dramatically and specifically up-regulated HNSCC ULBP1 mRNA and cell surface protein. Proteasome inhibition also increased RNA for ULBP1 and other NKG2D ligands in nontransformed human keratinocytes. Proteasome inhibitor drugs increased ULBP1 transcription by acting at a site in the 522-bp ULBP1 promoter. Although the DNA damage response pathways mediated by ATM (ataxia-telangiectasia, mutated) and ATR (ATM and Rad3-related) signaling had been reported to up-regulate NKG2D ligand expression, we found that ULBP1 up-regulation was not inhibited by caffeine and wortmannin, inhibitors of ATM/ATR signaling. ULBP1 expression in HNSCC cells was not increased by several ATM/ATR activating treatments, including bleomycin, cisplatin, aphidicolin, and hydroxyurea. Ionizing radiation caused ATM activation in HNSCC cells, but high-level ULBP1 expression was not induced by gamma radiation or UV radiation. Thus, ATM/ATR signaling was neither necessary nor sufficient for high-level ULBP1 expression in human HNSCC cell lines and could not account for the proteasome effect. The selective induction of ULBP1 expression by proteasome inhibitor drugs, along with variable NKG2D ligand expression by human tumor cells, indicates that NKG2D ligand genes are independently regulated. The Journal of Immunology, 2009, 182: 6600 - 6609.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6600-6609
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number10
StatePublished - May 15 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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