Absent in Melanoma 2 (AIM2) is an important mediator of interferon-dependent and -independent HLA-DRA and HLA-DRB gene expression in colorectal cancers
Absent in Melanoma 2 (AIM2) is a member of the HIN-200 family of hematopoietic, IFN-inducible, nuclear proteins, associated with both, infection defense and tumor pathology. Recently, AIM2 was found to act as a DNA sensor in innate immunity. In addition, we and others have previously demonstrated a high frequency of AIM2-alterations in microsatellite unstable (MSI-H) tumors. To further elucidate AIM2 function in colorectal tumors, we here addressed AIM2-responsive target genes by microarray based gene expression profiling of 22 244 human genes. A total of 111 transcripts were significantly upregulated, whereas 80 transcripts turned out to be significantly downregulated in HCT116 cells, constitutively expressing AIM2, compared with AIM2-negative cells. Among the upregulated genes that were validated by quantitative PCR and western blotting we recognized several interferon-stimulated genes (ISGs: IFIT1, IFIT2, IFIT3, IFI6, IRF7, ISG15, HLA-DRA, HLA-DRB, TLR3 and CIITA), as well as genes involved in intercellular adhesion and matrix remodeling. Expression of ISGs correlated with expression of AIM2 in 10 different IFN-γ treated colorectal cancer cell lines. Moreover, small interfering RNA-mediated knock-down of AIM2 resulted in reduced expression of HLA-DRA, HLA-DRB and CIITA in IFN-γ-treated cells. IFN-γ independent induction of HLA-DR genes and their encoded proteins was also demonstrated upon doxycyclin-regulated transient induction of AIM2. Luciferase reporter assays revealed induction of the HLA-DR promoter upon AIM2 transfection in different cell lines. STAT-signaling was not involved in IFN-γ independent induction of ISGs, arguing against participation of cytokines released in an autostimulating manner. Our data indicate that AIM2 mediates both IFN-γ dependent and independent induction of several ISGs, including genes encoding the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II antigens HLA-DR-α and -β. This suggests a novel role of the IFN/AIM2/ISG cascade likewise in cancer cells.