Background: Diffuse gliomas are poorly immunogenic, fatal brain tumors. The basis for insufficient antitumor immunity in diffuse gliomas is unknown. Gain-of-function mutations in isocitrate dehydrogenases (IDH1 and IDH2) promote diffuse glioma formation through epigenetic reprogramming of a number of genes, including immune-related genes. Here, we identify epigenetic dysregulation of natural killer (NK) cell ligand genes as significant contributors to immune escape in glioma.
Methods: We analyzed the database of The Cancer Genome Atlas for immune gene expression patterns in IDH mutant or wild-type gliomas and identified differentially expressed immune genes. NKG2D ligand expression levels and NK cell-mediated lysis were measured in IDH mutant and wild-type patient-derived glioma stem cells and genetically engineered astrocytes. Finally, we assessed the impact of hypomethylating agent 5-aza-2'deoxycytodine (decitabine) as a potential NK cell sensitizing agent in IDH mutant cells.
Results: IDH mutant glioma stemlike cell lines exhibited significantly lower expression of NKG2D ligands compared with IDH wild-type cells. Consistent with these findings, IDH mutant glioma cells and astrocytes are resistant to NK cell-mediated lysis. Decitabine increases NKG2D ligand expression and restores NK-mediated lysis of IDH mutant cells in an NKG2D-dependent manner.
Conclusions: IDH mutant glioma cells acquire resistance to NK cells through epigenetic silencing of NKG2D ligands ULBP1 and ULBP3. Decitabine-mediated hypomethylation restores ULBP1 and ULBP3 expression in IDH mutant glioma cells and may provide a clinically useful method to sensitize IDH mutant gliomas to NK cell-mediated immune surveillance in patients with IDH mutated diffuse gliomas.
Keywords: IDH mutation; NKG2D ligands; Natural Killer cells; glioma; immune escape; immunotherapy.
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