cFLIP overexpression in T cells in thymoma-associated myasthenia gravis

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ANNALS OF CLINICAL AND TRANSLATIONAL NEUROLOGY, vol.2, no.9, pp.894-905, 2015 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier


Objective: The capacity of thymomas to generate mature CD4+ effector T cells from immature precursors inside the tumor and export them to the blood is associated with thymoma-associated myasthenia gravis (TAMG). Why TAMG (+) thymomas generate and export more mature CD4+ T cells than MG(-) thymomas is unknown. Methods: Unfixed thymoma tissue, thymocytes derived thereof, peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs), T-cell subsets and B cells were analysed using qRT-PCR and western blotting. Survival of PBMCs was measured by MTT assay. FAS-mediated apoptosis in PBMCs was quantified by flow cytometry. NF-kappa B in PBMCs was inhibited by the NF-kappa B-Inhibitor, EF24 prior to FAS-Ligand (FASLG) treatment for apoptosis induction. Results: Expression levels of the apoptosis inhibitor cellular FLICE-like inhibitory protein (c-FLIP) in blood T cells and intratumorous thymocytes were higher in TAMG(+) than in MG(-) thymomas and non-neoplastic thymic remnants. Thymocytes and PBMCs of TAMG patients showed nuclear NF-kappa B accumulation and apoptosis resistance to FASLG stimulation that was sensitive to NF-kappa B blockade. Thymoma removal reduced cFLIP expression in PBMCs. Interpretation: We conclude that thymomas induce cFLIP overexpression in thymocytes and their progeny, blood T cells. We suggest that the stronger cFLIP overexpression in TAMG(+) compared to MG(-) thymomas allows for the more efficient generation of mature CD4+ T cells in TAMG(+) thymomas. cFLIP overexpression in thymocytes and exported CD4+ T cells of patients with TAMG might contribute to the pathogenesis of TAMG by impairing central and peripheral T-cell tolerance.