Programmed death-ligand 1 (PD-L1) acts as an immune checkpoint inhibitor in various cancers. PD-L1 is known to be more frequently expressed in EBV (+) gastric cancer (GC). However, the mechanisms underlying the regulation of PD-L1 expression in EBV (+) GC remain unclear. We investigated the basal and inducible PD-L1 expressions in GC cells. PD-L1 expression was upregulated upon treatment with IFNγ in both EBV (-) and EBV (+) GC cells. Upon stimulation with the same concentration of IFNγ for 24 h, EBV (+) SNU-719 cells showed dramatically higher PD-L1 expression levels by activating JAK2/STAT1/IRF-1 signaling than those of EBV (-) AGS cells. PD-L1 promoter assays, chromatin immunoprecipitation, and electrophoretic mobility shift assays revealed that IFNγ-inducible PD-L1 overexpression is primarily mediated by the putative IRF-1α site of the PD-L1 promoter in EBV (+) SNU-719 cells. Moreover, EBNA1 knockdown reduced both constitutive and IFNγ-inducible PD-L1 promoter activity by decreasing the transcript and protein levels of JAK2 and subsequently STAT1/IRF-1/PD-L1 signaling. EBNA1 is suggested to be moderately enhance both constitutive and IFNγ-inducible PD-L1 expression in EBV (+) GC cells. Thus, the signaling proteins and EBNA1 that regulate PD-L1 expression are potential therapeutic targets in EBV (+) GC.
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