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BioMed Research International
Volume 2017, Article ID 1293201, 8 pages
Research Article

PD-L1 Promotes Self-Renewal and Tumorigenicity of Malignant Melanoma Initiating Cells

1Department of Pediatrics, Union Hospital, Tongji Medical College, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan 430022, China
2Department of Geriatrics, Renmin Hospital of Wuhan University, Wuhan 430020, China
3Department of Hematology, Union Hospital, Tongji Medical College, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wu Han, China

Correspondence should be addressed to Fanjun Cheng; ten.haey@100nujnafgnehc

Received 22 April 2017; Accepted 10 September 2017; Published 9 November 2017

Academic Editor: Ilary Ruscito

Copyright © 2017 Fang Zheng et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Recent studies have indicated that therapeutic antibodies targeting PD-L1 show remarkable efficacy in clinical trials in multiple tumors and that a melanoma cell-intrinsic PD-1: PD-L1 axis promotes tumor growth. However, few studies have shown tumor-intrinsic PD-L1 effects in malignant melanoma initiating cells (MMICs). Here, we aim to determine the possible regulatory effects of PD-L1 on MMICs. The ALDEFLUOR kit was used to identify ALDH+ MMICs. Flow cytometry was used to examine the expression of PD-L1 on ALDH+ MMICs. To determine the role of PD-L1 in MMICs self-renewal, we cultured melanoma cells with anti-PD-L1 and measured tumorsphere formation and apoptosis. In addition, the effects of anti-PD-L1 on tumorigenicity and residual ALDH+ MMICs in tumors were evaluated in vivo. We demonstrated that melanoma cell-intrinsic PD-L1 was expressed in ALDH+ MMICs. Blocking PD-L1 in melanoma cell lines impaired tumorsphere formation and induced the apoptosis of sphere cells. In addition, blocking PD-L1 inhibited tumor growth in vivo. We observed residual ALDH+ MMICs within the tumor. The results showed that blocking PD-L1 also significantly decreased the residual ALDH+ MMICs in the tumors. In conclusion, these results suggest a new mechanism underlying melanoma progression and PD-L1-targeted therapy, which is distinct from the immunomodulatory actions of PD-L1.