Enhanced IL-6/IL-6R Signaling Promotes Growth and Malignant Properties in EBV-Infected Premalignant and Cancerous Nasopharyngeal Epithelial Cells

Guitao Zhang, Chi Man Tsang, Wen Deng, Yim Ling Yip, Vivian Wai Yan Lui, Sze Chuen Cesar Wong, Annie Lai Man Cheung, Pok Man Hau, Musheng Zeng, Maria Li Lung, Honglin Chen, Kwok Wai Lo, Kenzo Takada, Sai Wah Tsao

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45 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) is etiologically associated with Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection. However, the exact role of EBV in NPC pathogenesis remains elusive. Activation of signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) is common in human cancers including NPC and plays an important role in the pathogenesis and progression of human cancers. Interleukin-6 (IL-6), a major inflammatory cytokine, is a potent activator of STAT3. In this study, we report that EBV-infected immortalized nasopharyngeal epithelial (NPE) cells often acquire an enhanced response to IL-6-induced STAT3 activation to promote their growth and invasive properties. Interestingly, this enhanced IL-6/STAT3 response was mediated by overexpression of IL-6 receptor (IL-6R). Furthermore, IL-6R overexpression enhanced IL-6-induced STAT3 activation in uninfected immortalized NPE cells in vitro, and promoted growth and tumorigenicity of EBV-positive NPC cell line (C666-1) in vivo. Moreover, it is shown for the first time that IL-6R was overexpressed in clinical specimens of NPC. IL-6 expression could also be strongly detected in the stromal cells of NPC and a higher circulating level of IL-6 was found in the sera of advance-staged NPC patients compared to the control subjects. Therefore, IL-6R overexpression, coupled with enhanced IL-6/STAT3 signaling may facilitate the malignant transformation of EBV-infected premalignant NPE cells into cancer cells, and enhance malignant properties of NPC cells.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere62284
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume8
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)

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