TLR9 expression and secretion of LIF by prostate cancer cells stimulates accumulation and activity of polymorphonuclear MDSCs

J Leukoc Biol. 2017 Aug;102(2):423-436. doi: 10.1189/jlb.3MA1016-451RR. Epub 2017 May 22.


Proinflammatory signals promote prostate tumorigenesis and progression, but their origins and downstream effects remain unclear. We recently demonstrated that the expression of an innate immune receptor, TLR9, by prostate cancer cells is critical for their tumor-propagating potential. We investigated whether cancer cell-intrinsic TLR9 signaling alters composition of the prostate tumor microenvironment. We generated Ras/Myc (RM9) and Myc-driven (Myc-CaP) prostate cancer cells expressing the tetracycline-inducible gene Tlr9 (Tlr9ON ) or the control LacZ (LacZON ). When engrafted into mice and treated with tetracycline, Tlr9ON , but not LacZON , tumors showed accelerated growth kinetics compared with tumors in PBS-treated mice. Tlr9 upregulation in cancer cells triggered the selective accumulation of CD11b+Ly6GHILy6CLO myeloid cells, phenotypically similar to PMN-MDSCs. The PMN-MDSCs from tetracycline-treated RM9-Tlr9ON tumors increased the immunosuppressive activity of the STAT3 transcription factor, thereby more potently inhibiting T cell proliferation. We identified LIF, an IL-6-type cytokine and STAT3 activator, as a potential mediator of crosstalk between TLR9-expressing prostate cancer cells and PMN-MDSCs. Antibody-mediated LIF neutralization reduced the percentage of tumor-infiltrating PMN-MDSCs and inhibited tumor growth in mice. The clinical relevance of LIF is confirmed by the correlation between TLR9 and LIF expression in prostate cancer specimens. Furthermore, blood samples from patients with prostate cancer showed elevated levels of LIF and high LIFR expression on circulating PMN-MDSCs. Our results suggest that TLR9+ prostate cancers promote immune evasion via LIF-mediated expansion and activation of PMN-MDSCs. Finally, targeting TLR9/LIF/STAT3 signaling using oligonucleotide-based inhibitors, such as CpG-STAT3dODN, can offer new opportunities for prostate cancer immunotherapy.

Keywords: CpG; STAT3; immunosuppression; oligonucleotide therapeutics; tumor microenvironment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Chromatin Immunoprecipitation
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Heterografts
  • High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing
  • Humans
  • Leukemia Inhibitory Factor / immunology*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Myeloid-Derived Suppressor Cells / immunology*
  • Neutrophils / immunology
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Toll-Like Receptor 9 / immunology*
  • Tumor Escape / immunology*
  • Tumor Microenvironment / immunology


  • LIF protein, human
  • Leukemia Inhibitory Factor
  • Toll-Like Receptor 9