α-Fetoprotein (AFP) is a tumor-associated Ag, and its serum level is elevated in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). In vitro, AFP induces functional impairment of dendritic cells (DCs). This was demonstrated by the down-regulation of CD40 and CD86 molecnles and the impairment of allostimulatory function. Also, AFP was found to induce significant apoptosis of DCs, and AFP-treated DCs produced low levels of IL-12 and TNF-α, a cytokine pattern that could hamper an efficient antitumor immune response. Ex vivo, APCs of patients with HCC and high levels of AFP produced lower levels of TNF-α than that of healthy individuals. In conclusion, these results illustrate that AFP induces dysfunction and apoptosis of APCs, thereby offering a mechanism by which HCC escapes immunological control.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Allergy