HLA-G belongs to the nonclassical MHC class Ib group of molecules and has been implicated in mediating immune-responsiveness in various cancerous and non-cancerous cell types. We have examined HLA-G expression in a number of human gastrointestinal malignancies, including pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, ampullary cancer, biliary cancer, and colorectal cancer by immunolabeling analysis. We used indices of <5% (negative), 6–25%, 26–50%, 51–75%, and >75% (diffuse) to subclassify lesions based on percentage of positive cell labeling. Across all cancer subtypes, 52–79% of lesions demonstrated expression of HLA-G, with up to 33% of lesions demonstrating diffuse (>75%) expression. In addition, we utilized the neoplastic progression model of colorectal cancer to evaluate HLA-G protein expression in normal colon, tubulovillous adenomas, invasive cancer, and liver metastases arising from colorectal cancer. Focal HLA-G expression was detected in regions of normal colon adjacent to sites of adenomatous and cancerous lesions, as well as in all stages of cancer progression. Overall, the percentage of diffusely (>75%) labeled lesions appeared increased in preneoplastic and neoplastic conditions, as compared to normal colon. Specifically, tubulovillous adnenomas demonstrated pronounced diffuse labeling in 58% of lesions examined. No correlation with HLA-G expression and CD4+ or CD8+ T cells was identified. We propose that HLA-G expression is upregulated in a large percentage of gastrointestinal lesions and may serve to mediate immuneresponsiveness in certain instances.
Pancreas colon gallbladder pancreatic cancer ampullary cancer biliary cancer colorectal cancer immune tolerance