Background: Tumor-associated macrophages (TAMs) remodel the colorectal cancer (CRC) microenvironment. Yet, findings on the role of TAMs in CRC seem to be contradictory compared with other cancers. FoxP3(+) regulatory T (Treg)-cells dominantly infiltrate CRC. However, the underlying molecular mechanism in which TAMs may contribute to the trafficking of Treg-cells to the tumor mass remains unknown.
Methodology/principal findings: CRC was either induced by N-methyl-N-nitrosourea (MNU) and H. pylori or established by subcutaneous injection of mouse colorectal tumor cell line (CMT93) in mice. CMT93 cells were co-cultured with primary macrophages in a transwell apparatus. Recruitment of FoxP3 green fluorescence protein positive (FoxP3(GFP+)) Treg-cells was assessed using the IVIS Imaging System or immunofluorescence staining. A role for macrophages in trafficking of Treg-cells and in the development of CRC was investigated in CD11b diphtheria toxin receptor (CD11b-DTR) transgenic C57BL/6J mice in which macrophages can be selectively depleted. Treg-cells remarkably infiltrated solid tumor, and predominantly expressed the homing chemokine receptor (CCR) 6 in the induced CRC model. Both CMT93 cancer cells and macrophages produced a large amount of CCL20, the sole ligand of CCR6 in vitro and in vivo. Injection of recombinant mouse CCL20 into tumor sites promoted its development with a marked recruitment of Treg-cells in the graft CRC model. Conditional macrophage ablation decreased CCL20 levels, blocked Treg-cell recruitment and inhibited tumor growth in CD11b-DTR mice grafted with CMT93.
Conclusions/significance: TAMs recruit CCR6(+) Treg-cells to tumor mass and promote its development via enhancing the production of CCL20 in a CRC mouse model.