Weiguo Han, David A. Jackson, Stephan J. Matissek, Jason A. Misurelli, Matthew S. Neil, Brandon Sklavanitis, Nansalmaa Amarsaikhan and Sherine F. Elsawa
The interaction between tumor cells and their surrounding microenvironment is essential for the growth and persistence of cancer cells. This interaction is mediated, in part, by cytokines. Although the role of cytokines in normal and malignant cell biology is well established, many of the molecular mechanisms regulating their expression remain elusive. In this article, we provide evidence of a novel pathway controlling the transcriptional activation of CD40L in bone marrow–derived stromal cells. Using a PCR-based screening of cytokines known to play a role in the biology of bone marrow malignancies, we identified CD40L as a novel GLI2 target gene in stromal cells. CD40L plays an important role in malignant B cell biology, and we found increased Erk phosphorylation and cell growth in malignant B cells cocultured with CD40L-expressing stromal cells. Further analysis indicated that GLI2 overexpression induced increased CD40L expression, and, conversely, GLI2 knockdown reduced CD40L expression. Using luciferase and chromatin immunoprecipitation assays, we demonstrate that GLI2 directly binds and regulates the activity of the CD40L promoter. We found that the CCR3–PI3K–AKT signaling modulates the GLI2–CD40L axis, and GLI2 is required for CCR3–PI3K–AKT-mediated regulation of the CD40L promoter. Finally, coculture of malignant B cells with cells stably expressing human CD40L results in increased Erk phosphorylation and increased malignant B cell growth, indicating that CD40L in the tumor microenvironment promotes malignant B cell activation. Therefore, our studies identify a novel molecular mechanism of regulation of CD40L by the transcription factor GLI2 in the tumor microenvironment downstream of CCR3 signaling.