Programmed death ligand (PD-L1) expression was associated with tumor immune escape and subsequent poor prognosis in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). This expression was higher in patients with EGFR-mutated NSCLC tumors than in those with EGFR-wild-type (WT) NSCLC tumors. We therefore hypothesized that poor prognosis mediated by higher PD-L1 may be partially through conferring resistance to tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) in NSCLC regardless of EGFR mutation. The change in PD-L1 expression following gene manipulation corresponded with changes in expression of HIF-1α and YAP1. The expression of HIF-1α and YAP1 was concomitantly decreased by PD-L1 silencing or by ROS scavenger treatment (N-acetylcysteine, NAC); however, a ROS inducer treatment (pyocyanin) completely reversed the decreased expression of both genes in EGFR-mutated and -wild-type (WT) NSCLC cells. The MTT assay indicated that the inhibitory concentration of gefitinib yielding 50% cell viability (IC50) depended on PD-L1-mediated YAP1 expression. Mechanistic studies indicated that upregulation of YAP1 by PD-L1 might be responsible for EGFR mutation-independent TKI resistance via the ROS/HIF-1α axis. An unfavorable TKI response was more common in patient tumors with high PD-L1 or YAP1 mRNA expression than in patient tumors with low mRNA expression of these genes. In conclusion, PD-L1 might confer EGFR mutationindependent TKI resistance in NSCLC cells via upregulation of YAP1 expression.
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