Retinoblastoma tumor cell proliferation is negatively associated with an immune gene expression signature and increased immune cells

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5 Scopus citations


This study focuses on gene expression differences between early retinal states that ultimately lead to normal development, late onset retinoblastoma, or rapid bilateral retinoblastoma tumors. The late-onset and early-onset retinoblastoma tumor cells are remarkably similar to normally proliferating retinal progenitor cells, but they fail to properly express differentiation markers associated with normal development. Further, early-onset retinoblastoma tumor cells express a robust immune gene expression signature followed by accumulation of dendritic, monocyte, macrophage, and T-lymphocyte cells in the retinoblastoma tumors. This characteristic was not shared by either normal retinae or late-onset retinoblastomas. Comparison of our data with other human and mouse retinoblastoma tumor gene expression significantly confirmed, that the immune signature is present in tumors from each species. Strikingly, we observed that the immune signature in both mouse and human tumors was most highly evident in those with the lowest proliferative capacity. We directly assessed this relationship in human retinoblastoma tumors by co-analyzing proliferation and immune cell recruitment by immunohistochemistry, uncovering a significant inverse relationship between increased immune-cell infiltration in tumors and reduced tumor cell proliferation. Directly inhibiting proliferation with a PI3K/mTOR inhibitor significantly increased the number of CD45+ immune cells in the retina. This work establishes an in vivo model for the rapid recruitment of immune cells to tumorigenic neural tissue.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)701-718
Number of pages18
JournalLaboratory Investigation
Issue number6
Early online dateMar 3 2021
StatePublished - Jun 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to United States and Canadian Academy of Pathology.

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural


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