Therapeutic antibodies that target T-cell co-inhibitory molecules display potent antitumor effects in multiple types of cancer. LSECtin is a cell surface lectin of the DC-SIGN family expressed in dendritic cells that inhibits T-cell responses. LSECtin limits T-cell activity in infectious disease, but it has not been studied in cancer. Here we report the finding that LSECtin is expressed commonly in melanomas where it blunts tumor-specific T-cell responses. When expressed in B16 melanoma cells, LSECtin promoted tumor growth, whereas its blockade slowed tumor growth in either wild-type or LSECtin-deficient mice. The tumor-promoting effects of LSECtin were abrogated in Rag1(-/-) mice or in response to CD4(+) or CD8(+) T-cell depletion. Mechanistic investigations determined that LSECtin inhibited the proliferation of tumor-specific effector T cells by downregulating the cell cycle kinases CDK2, CDK4, and CDK6. Accordingly, as expressed in B16, tumor cells LSECtin inhibited tumor-specific T-cell responses relying upon proliferation in vitro and in vivo. Notably, LSECtin interacted with the co-regulatory molecule LAG-3, the blockade of which restored IFNγ secretion that was reduced by melanoma-derived expression of LSECtin. Together, our findings reveal that common expression of LSECtin in melanoma cells engenders a mechanism of immune escape, with implications for novel immunotherapeutic combination strategies.
©2014 American Association for Cancer Research.