The folate receptor (FR) is overexpressed on the vascular side of cancerous cells including those of the breast, ovaries, testes, and cervix. We hypothesized that a folate-conjugated immunoglobulin (F-IgG) would bind to the FR that is overexpressed on melanoma tumor cells to target these cells for lysis by natural killer (NK) cells. Folate receptor expression was confirmed in the Mel-39 (human melanoma) cell line by flow cytometry and immunoblot analysis using KB (human oral epithelial) and F01 (human melanoma) as a positive and a negative control, respectively. FR-positive and FR-negative cell lines were treated with F-IgG or control immunoglobulin G in the presence or absence of cytokines to determine NK cell ability to lyse FR-positive cell lines. NK cell activation was significantly upregulated and lysis of Mel 39 tumor cells increased following treatment with F-IgG compared with control immunoglobulin G at all effector: target (E: T) ratios (P<0.01). This trend further increased by NK cell stimulation with the activating cytokine interleukin-12. NK cell production of cytokines such as interferon-gamma, macrophage inflammatory protein 1α, and regulated on activation normal T-cell expressed and secreted (RANTES) was also significantly increased in response to costimulation with interleukin-12 stimulation and F-IgG-coated Mel 39 target cells compared with controls (P<0.01). In contrast, F-IgG did not bind to the FR-negative cell line F01 and had no significant effect on NK cell lysis or cytokine production. This research indicates the potential use of F-IgG for its ability to induce an immune response from NK cells against FR-positive melanoma tumor cells, which can be further increased by the addition of cytokines.
- natural killer cell