Objective Tumour-associated macrophages (TAMs) and their alternative activation contribute greatly to the development of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Tim-3 is highly expressed on macrophages and regulates macrophage functions in several conditions. However, whether Tim-3 is involved in the activation and the function of TAMs has not been reported.
Design Tim-3 expression in HCC samples was evaluated by flow cytometry, immunohistochemistry and confocal analysis. We analysed the effects of Tim-3 knockdown on macrophages in growth of H22 tumour homografts in BALB/c mice. Tim-3 interference was performed by neutralising antibody, small interfering RNA or short hairpin RNA-expressing lentivirus. Cytokine production was evaluated by reverse transcription PCR, ELISA or Cytometric Bead Array. The effects of Tim-3 interference in macrophages were examined with regard to alternative activation of macrophages and proliferation and migration of Hepa1-6 cells. Cell growth curve, colony formation and transwell assays were involved to estimate cell proliferation and migration.
Results Tim-3 expression was significantly increased in both peripheral blood monocytes and TAMs in patients with HCC. The Tim-3 expression in monocytes/TAMs strongly correlated with higher tumour grades and the poor survival of patients with HCC. Consistently, HCC conditioned medium or transforming growth factor-β fostered Tim-3 expression and the alternative activation of macrophages. Moreover, Tim-3 interference in macrophages significantly inhibited the alternative activation of macrophages and suppressed HCC cell growth both in vitro and in vivo. Blocking interleukin 6 reversed the Tim-3-mediated effects on HCC cell growth in vitro.
Conclusions Tim-3 displays critical roles in microenvironment-induced activation and protumoral effects of TAMs in HCC. Interference of Tim-3 might be great potential in HCC therapy.
- CANCER IMMUNOBIOLOGY
- KUPFFER CELL
- MOLECULAR IMMUNOLOGY