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Keywords:

  • histamine;
  • immune evasion;
  • natural killer cell;
  • NKG2D ligands;
  • ubiquitination

Summary

Natural killer (NK) group 2D (NKG2D) is a key activating receptor expressed on NK cells, whose interaction with ligands on target cells plays an important role in tumorigenesis. However, the effect of histamine on NKG2D ligands on tumour cells is unclear. Here we showed that human monocytic leukaemia THP-1 cells constitutively express MHC class I-related chain A (MICA) and UL16-binding protein 1 on their surface, and incubation with histamine reduced the expression in a dose-dependent and time-dependent manner as assessed by flow cytometry. Interferon-γ augmented the surface expression of the NKG2D ligands, and this augmentation was significantly attenuated by histamine. The histamine H1 receptor (H1R) agonist 2-pyridylethylamine and H2R agonist dimaprit down-regulated the expression of NKG2D ligands, and activation of H1R and H2R signalling by A23187 and forskolin, respectively, had the same effect, indicating that the histamine-induced down-regulation of NKG2D ligands is mediated by H1R and H2R. Quantitative reverse transcription-PCR showed that mRNA levels of the NKG2D ligands and relevant microRNAs were not significantly changed by histamine. Histamine down-regulated the surface expression of endoplasmic reticulum protein 5, and inhibition of matrix metalloproteinases did not impair this down-regulation, indicating that proteolytic shedding was not involved. Instead, pharmacological inhibition of protein transport and proteasome abrogated it, and histamine enhanced ubiquitination of MICA. Furthermore, histamine treatment significantly reduced susceptibility to NK cell-mediated cytotoxicity. These results suggest that histamine down-regulates NKG2D ligands through the activation of an H1R- and H2R-mediated ubiquitin–proteasome pathway and consequently reduces susceptibility to NK cells.