AP-1 Transcription Factors as Regulators of Immune Responses in Cancer

Cancers (Basel). 2019 Jul 23;11(7):1037. doi: 10.3390/cancers11071037.


Immune check point blockade therapy has revolutionized the standard of cancer treatment and is credited with producing remarkable tumor remissions and increase in overall survival. This unprecedented clinical success however is feasible for a limited number of cancer patients due to resistance occurring before or during a course of immunotherapy, which is often associated with activation of oncogenic signaling pathways, co-inhibitory checkpoints upregulation or expansion of immunosuppressive regulatory T-cells (Tregs) in the tumor microenviroment (TME). Targeted therapy aiming to inactivate a signaling pathway such as the Mitogen Activated Protein Kinases (MAPKs) has recently received a lot of attention due to emerging data from preclinical studies indicating synergy with immune checkpoint blockade therapy. The dimeric transcription factor complex Activator Protein-1 (AP-1) is a group of proteins involved in a wide array of cell processes and a critical regulator of nuclear gene expression during T-cell activation. It is also one of the downstream targets of the MAPK signaling cascade. In this review, we will attempt to unravel the roles of AP-1 in the regulation of anti-tumor immune responses, with a focus on the regulation of immune checkpoints and Tregs, seeking to extract useful insights for more efficacious immunotherapy.

Keywords: AP-1; CTLA-4; PD-1; PD-L1; Tregs; immune checkpoints; immunotherapy; targeted therapy; transcription factors.

Publication types

  • Review