The growing importance of antitumour immunity by cancer immunotherapy has prompted studies on radiotherapy-induced immune response. Previous studies have indicated that programmed cell death-1 ligand (PD-L1) expression is regulated by DNA damage signalling. However, PD-L1 up-regulation after radiotherapy has not been fully investigated at the clinical level, particularly in the context of expression of DNA repair factors. The present study exam- ined the correlation of mRNA expression between PD-L1 and non-homologous end joining (NHEJ) factors using The Cancer Genome Atlas database analysis. Among NHEJ factors, Ku80 mRNA expression was negatively correlated with PD-L1 mRNA expression levels in several types of cancer (colon adenocarcinoma, breast invasive carcinoma, skin cutaneous melanoma, lung adenocarcinoma, head and neck squamous cell carcinoma, uterine corpus endometrial carci- noma, cervical squamous cell carcinoma and endocervical adenocarcinoma). To verify the negative correlation in clinical samples, the present study analysed whether Ku80 expression levels affected PD-L1 up-regulation after radiotherapy using cervical squamous cell carcinoma samples. Quantitative evaluation using software analysis of immunohistochemi- cally stained slides revealed that patients with low Ku80 positivity in biopsy specimens demonstrated increased PD-L1 expression levels after 10 Gy irradiation (Spearman's rank correlation coefficient=-0.274; P=0.017). Furthermore, PD-L1 induction levels in tumour cells after 10 Gy of irradiation were significantly inversely correlated with Ku80 expression levels (Spearman's rank correlation coefficient=-0.379; P<0.001). The present study also confirmed that short interfering RNA-mediated Ku80 depletion was associated with greater X-ray-induced PD-L1 up-regulation in HeLa cells. These results indicated that radiotherapy could enhance PD-L1 induction in tumour cells with low Ku80 expression in a clinical setting. Furthermore, these data highlighted Ku80 as a potential predictive biomarker for immune checkpoint therapy combined with radiotherapy.
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