Expression of costimulatory molecules: B7 and ICAM up-regulation after treatment with a suicide gene

R. Ramesh, A. Munshi, C. N. Abboud, A. J. Marrogi, Scott M. Freeman

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The herpes simplex virus thymidine kinase gene (HSV-TK) in combination with ganciclovir (GCV), is currently being used in gene therapy-based clinical trials for cancer treatment. Its therapeutic effect is based on a "bystander effect" whereby HSV-TK gene-modified tumor cells are toxic to nearby unmodified tumor cells when exposed to the antiviral drug GCV. We have recently hypothesized that the in vivo mechanism of this bystander effect is due to alterations in the tumor microenvironment in response to release of cytokines and an infiltration of leukocytes after treatment with HSV-TK gene-modified tumor cells and GCV, which results in tumor regression. Expression of B7, a recently identified costimulatory molecule that is important for T-cell stimulation, has been shown to be modulated by stimulatory cytokines interferon-y, tumor necrosis factor-o, and inhibited by interleukin-10. In the present study, we investigated whether the cytokines released after HSV-TK and GCV treatment could induce the expression of the costimulatory molecules B7-1 and B7-2 and the adhesion molecule (ICAM)-1 in the tumor. Furthermore, we investigated whether this altered environment affected the antitumor properties of host lymphocytes. An in vitro model was developed to establish the effects of HSV-TK gene-modified tumor cells and GCV on tumor infiltrating cells. The murine macrophage cell line (IC21) was exposed to either supernatants or cell lysates collected from a mixture of HSV-TK-transduced (KBALB-STK) and non-transduced (KBALB) murine fibrosarcoma tumor cells previously exposed to GCV (experimental). Immunohistochemical analysis showed a significant expression (P < .0001) of B7-1 and B7-2 post exposure of IC21 cells to either supernatant or lysate. In contrast, the level of expression in IC21 cells exposed to the control lysate or supernatant remained unchanged for B7-1 and B7-2. In vivo analysis for B7-1 and B7-2 expression by immunohistochemistry in tumor tissues from experimental mice receiving HSV-TK gene-modified tumor cells and GCV treatment showed a significant expression of B7.1 (35%, P < .0001) and B7.2 (38.2%, P < .0001) on tumor-infiltrating mononuclear cells. In contrast, tumor-bearing control animals showed low levels of B7-2 expression (5.8%), whereas B7-1 was undetectable, as confirmed by reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction. In addition, a significant up-regulation of ICAM expression (50%) on tumor tissues was observed in the experimental group (P = .0317) as compared with the control group (25%). Furthermore, T cells isolated from experimental mice showed a significant in vitro proliferative response (p = .0202) when exposed to syngeneic tumor cells as compared with the control group. These data demonstrated that the use of HSV-TK gene-modified tumor cells and GCV as a suicide gene in the treatment of an intraperitoneal tumor resulted in the expression of the B7 costimulatory molecules and ICAM-1 adhesion molecule and enhanced proliferative response of host T cells. These findings help to understand the mechanism of tumor cell killing in vivo using HSV-TK gene-modified tumor cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)373-384
Number of pages12
JournalCancer gene therapy
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jan 1 1996


  • B7
  • Ganciclovir
  • Herpes simplex virus thymidine kinase
  • Intracellular adhesion molecule


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