Calreticulin surface exposure (ecto-CALR), ATP secretion, maturation of dendritic cells (DCs) and stimulation of T cells are prerequisites for anticancer therapy-induced immunogenic cell death (ICD). Recent evidence suggests that chemotherapy-induced autophagy may positively regulate ICD by favoring ATP secretion. We have recently shown that reactive oxygen species (ROS)-based endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress triggered by hypericin-mediated photodynamic therapy (Hyp-PDT) induces bona fide ICD. However, whether Hyp-PDT-induced autophagy regulates ICD was not explored. Here we showed that, in contrast to expectations, reducing autophagy (by ATG5 knockdown) in cancer cells did not alter ATP secretion after Hyp-PDT. Autophagy-attenuated cancer cells displayed enhanced ecto-CALR induction following Hyp-PDT, which strongly correlated with their inability to clear oxidatively damaged proteins. Furthermore, autophagy-attenuation in Hyp-PDT-treated cancer cells increased their ability to induce DC maturation, IL6 production and proliferation of CD4(+) or CD8(+) T cells, which was accompanied by IFNG production. Thus, our study unravels a role for ROS-induced autophagy in weakening functional interaction between dying cancer cells and the immune system thereby helping in evasion from ICD prerequisites or determinants.
Keywords: ATP; T cells; autophagy; calreticulin; cancer; dendritic cells; immunogenic cell death; photodynamic therapy (PDT).