1. Department of Oncology, the First Affiliated Hospital of Anhui Medical University, Hefei 230022, Anhui, China;
2. Department of Pharmacy, the First Affiliated Hospital of Anhui Medical University, Hefei 230022, Anhui, China;
3. Institute of Clinical Pharmacology, Anhui Medical University, Hefei 230032, Anhui, China;
4. Institute for Liver Diseases of Anhui Medical University, Hefei 230032, Anhui, China.
* These authors contributed equally to this work.
Immunosuppression is a significant factor in the progression of tumor invasion and metastasis. Melatonin, a well-known hormone, has certain cytotoxic and immune regulatory effects to inhibit tumor function. Exosomes are small membrane vesicles released by many kinds of cells, which contain different macromolecules, such as mRNAs and microRNAs (miRNAs), and proteins that can mediate communications between cells. Tumor-derived exosomes may cause immunosuppression, however, it is unknown whether melatonin can attenuate an immunosuppressive status by altering the function of tumor-derived exosomes. In the present study, we evaluated the effects of hepatocellularcarcinoma-derived exosomes (Exo-con) and exosomes derived from hepatocellularcarcinoma cells treated with 0.1 mM melatonin (Exo-MT), on the expression of inflammatory factors and programmed death ligand 1(PD-L1) by co-culturing Exo-con and Exo-MT, respectively, with macrophages differentiated from THP-1 cells or RAW264.7 cells. Our in vitro results indicate that Exo-MT can downregulate the expression of PD-L1 on macrophages while Exo-con can upregulate the expression of PD-L1 through flow cytometry and immunofluorescence analysis. In addition, Exo-con upregulates the secretion of cytokines, such as IL-6, IL-10, IL-1β, and TNF-α in macrophages. Accordingly, Exo-MT could attenuate the high expression of these inflammatory cytokines. Furthermore, in vivo experiments confirmed the results found in vitro. PD-L1 expression and cytokine secretion were lower in the Exo-MT group compared with those in the Exo-con group. Working to identify a specific mechanism, our research shows that Exo-MT decreases STAT3 activation compared to the Exo-con group. In summary, we found exosomes from melatonin treated hepatocellularcarcinoma cells alters the immunosupression status through STAT3 pathway in macrophages. Our study may provide a new avenue to investigate the mechanisms of melatonin in regulating an immunosuppressive status.
Keywords: Hepatoma cell, melatonin, exosomes, PD-L1, cytokines, macrophages.