Suppressive effects of tumor cell-derived 5'-deoxy-5'-methylthioadenosine on human T cells

Oncoimmunology. 2016 Jun 10;5(8):e1184802. doi: 10.1080/2162402X.2016.1184802. eCollection 2016 Aug.

Abstract

The immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment represents one of the main obstacles for immunotherapy of cancer. The tumor milieu is among others shaped by tumor metabolites such as 5'-deoxy-5'-methylthioadenosine (MTA). Increased intratumoral MTA levels result from a lack of the MTA-catabolizing enzyme methylthioadenosine phosphorylase (MTAP) in tumor cells and are found in various tumor entities. Here, we demonstrate that MTA suppresses proliferation, activation, differentiation, and effector function of antigen-specific T cells without eliciting cell death. Conversely, if MTA is added to highly activated T cells, MTA exerts cytotoxic effects on T cells. We identified the Akt pathway, a critical signal pathway for T cell activation, as a target of MTA, while, for example, p38 remained unaffected. Next, we provide evidence that MTA exerts its immunosuppressive effects by interfering with protein methylation in T cells. To confirm the relevance of the suppressive effects of exogenously added MTA on human T cells, we used an MTAP-deficient tumor cell-line that was stably transfected with the MTAP-coding sequence. We observed that T cells stimulated with MTAP-transfected tumor cells revealed a higher proliferative capacity compared to T cells stimulated with Mock-transfected cells. In conclusion, our findings reveal a novel immune evasion strategy of human tumor cells that could be of interest for therapeutic targeting.

Keywords: Antitumor immune response; MTA; MTAP; T cells; cell signaling; immunosuppression; protein methylation; tumor metabolism.