Dual inhibition of STAT1 and STAT3 activation downregulates expression of PD-L1 in human breast cancer cells

Varun Sasidharan Nair, Salman M. Toor, Bassam R. Ali, Eyad Elkord*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

88 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives: Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer, and it is a leading cause of cancer-related deaths in females worldwide. Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) constitutes 15% of breast cancer and shows distinct metastasis profiles with poor prognosis. Strong PD-L1 expression has been observed in some tumors, supporting their escape from immune surveillance. Targeting PD-L1 could be a promising therapeutic approach in breast cancer patients. We investigated potential molecular mechanisms for constitutive expression of PD-L1 by inhibiting upstream STAT1 and STAT3 signals. Methods: PD-L1 expression in three breast cancer cell lines was measured using quantitative PCR and western blotting. Activation of STAT1 and STAT3 was blocked using pharmacological inhibitors and siRNA. The mechanism underlying the constitutive expression of PD-L1 was investigated using ChIP and co-immunoprecipitation assays. Results: We found that individual inhibition of STAT1 and STAT3 activation partially downregulated PD-L1, while combined inhibition completely downregulated PD-L1 expression. Moreover, our results suggest that pSTAT1-pSTAT3 dimerize in cytosol and translocate to the nucleus, where they bind to PD-L1 promoter and induce PD-L1 expression. Conclusion: These findings provide a rationale for combined targeting of STAT1 and STAT3 for the development of immune-based cancer therapies for down regulation of PD-L1 expression.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)547-557
Number of pages11
JournalExpert Opinion on Therapeutic Targets
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jun 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Breast cancer
  • PD-L1
  • STAT1
  • STAT3
  • triple-negative breast cancer


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