Oncotarget 2016 08;7(32):51840-51853
Aging Research Institute, Korea Research Institute of Bioscience and Biotechnology, Daejeon, Republic of Korea.
Pancreatic cancer is characterized by an immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment (TME) with a profound immune infiltrate populated by a significant number of myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs). MDSCs have been increasingly recognized for their role in immune evasion and cancer progression as well as their potential as a target for immunotherapy. However, not much is known about the mechanisms regulating their behavior and function in the pancreatic TME. Here we report that pancreatic adenocarcinoma up-regulated factor (PAUF), a soluble protein involved in pancreatic tumorigenesis and metastasis, plays a role as an enhancer of tumor-infiltrating MDSC and its functional activity. We show that PAUF enhanced the accumulation of MDSCs in the spleen and tumor tissues of PAUF-overexpressing tumor cell-injected mice. In addition, PAUF was found to enhance the immunosuppressive function of MDSCs via the TLR4-mediated signaling pathway, which was demonstrated by PAUF-induced increased levels of arginase, nitric oxide (NO), and reactive oxygen species (ROS). The role of PAUF in modulating the functional properties of MDSCs was further demonstrated by the use of a PAUF-neutralizing antibody that caused a decreased number of tumor-infiltrating MDSCs and reduced MDSC immunosuppressive activity. The observations made in mice were confirmed in human pancreatic cancer patient-derived MDSCs, supporting the clinical relevance of our findings. Collectively, we conclude that the PAUF is a powerful and multifunctional promoter of tumor growth through increase and functional activation of MDSCs, suggesting therapeutic potential for targeting PAUF in pancreatic cancers.