Programmed death-1 (PD-1) is an immunoinhibitory receptor expressed on lymphocytes. Interaction of PD-1 with its ligand PD-ligand 1 (PD-L1) delivers inhibitory signals and impairs proliferation, cytokine production, and cytotoxicity of T cells. In our previous studies, we have developed anti-bovine PD-L1 monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) and reported that the PD-1/PD-L1 pathway was closely associated with T-cell exhaustion and disease progression in bovine chronic infections and canine tumors. Furthermore, we found that blocking antibodies that target PD-1 and PD-L1 restore T-cell functions and could be used in immunotherapy in cattle and dogs. However, the immunological role of the PD-1/PD-L1 pathway for chronic equine diseases, including tumors, remains unclear. In this study, we identified cDNA sequences of equine PD-1 (EqPD-1) and PD-L1 (EqPD-L1) and investigated the role of anti-bovine PD-L1 mAbs against EqPD-L1 using in vitro assays. In addition, we evaluated the expression of PD-L1 in tumor tissues of equine malignant melanoma (EMM). The amino acid sequences of EqPD-1 and EqPDL1 share a considerable identity and similarity with homologs from non-primate species. Two clones of the anti-bovine PD-L1 mAbs recognized EqPD-L1 in flow cytometry, and one of these cross-reactive mAbs blocked the binding of equine PD-1/PD-L1. Of note, immunohistochemistry confirmed the PD-L1 expression in EMM tumor tissues. A cultivation assay revealed that PD-L1 blockade enhanced the production of Th1 cytokines in equine immune cells. These findings showed that our anti-PD-L1 mAbs would be useful for analyzing the equine PD-1/PD-L1 pathway. Further research is warranted to discover the immunological role of PD-1/PD-L1 in chronic equine diseases and elucidate a future application in immunotherapy for horses.
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