Immunoglobulin (Ig) secretion by terminally differentiated B-cells is important in the immune response to pathogens. Its over production is a defining characteristic of many B-cell malignancies, including Waldenström Macroglobulinemia (WM), where elevated IgM is associated with significant morbidity and poor prognosis. Thus, the identification and characterization of the mechanisms controlling Ig secretion are of great importance for the development of future therapeutic approaches for these diseases. Here, we define a novel pathway involving the oncogenic transcription factor, GLI2, modulating IgM secretion via regulation of IL-6 receptor alpha subunit (IL6Rα) expression in WM cells. We have previously identified components of the Hedgehog (HH)-GLI pathway as modulators of Ig secretion. Pharmacological (GANT61) and genetic (shRNA) inhibition of GLI proteins resulted in no significant effect on cell proliferation or viability, while there was a significant reduction in IgM secretion (60%) in BCWM.1 (p<0.0001), (55%) in MWCL-1 (p<0.0001) and (50%) in RPCI-WM1 (p<0.0001) cells. Interestingly, this occurred independent of HH signaling as manipulation of HH had no effect on IgM secretion, cell growth or viability. Screening for a mechanism identified IL6Rα as a downstream direct target of GLI activity. GANT61 treatment significantly reduces IL6Rα promoter activity in BCWM.1 (p=0.0002), MWCL-1 (P=0.0003) and RPCI-WM1 (p<0.0001) cells. GLI2 knockdown using two independent shGLI2 constructs resulted in reduced IL6Rα mRNA expression (p<0.0001) determined by qPCR, and IL6Rα protein expression examined by FACS analysis. Similarly, GLI2 knockdown diminished IL6Rα promoter activity in BCWM.1 (p=0.0218), MWCL-1 (p=0.0008) and RPCI-WM1 (p=0.0002) cells. Using bioinformatics analysis, we identified three candidate GLI2 binding sites in the IL6Rα promoter region. Using chromatin immunoprecipitation assay (ChIP) followed by qPCR, we confirmed that GLI2 directly binds to the IL6Rα promoter region (-1294 / -1065). Finally, we were able to rescue the reduction in IgM secretion in GLI2 knockdown group by overexpressing IL6Rα (p=0.0142). Taken together, these data reveal a novel mechanism where GLI2 modulates IgM secretion in WM through the regulation of IL6Rα expression. Given the poor prognosis associated with elevated IgM in WM patients, components of this new signaling axis could be important therapeutic targets.
No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.