Rationale: Abnormal expression of programmed death-1 (PD-1) ligand-1(PD-L1) in cancer cells plays a crucial role in cancer immune evasion and progression. The immune checkpoint molecules PD-1 and PD-L1 have been targeted for cancer treatment with significant benefits for cancer patients. However, the response rate is relatively low in certain types of cancer and the underlying mechanism remains poorly understood. Better understanding of the molecular mechanism of PD-L1 expression regulation in cancer cells is urgently needed to improve the treatment response rate and overall survival of patients. Fructose-1, 6-biphosphatase (FBP1) is a key enzyme in gluconeogenesis and is implicated in human cancer due to its frequent loss in various cancer types. Methods: Expression of FBP1 and PD-L1 was analyzed in various cancer cell lines. Western blot and RT-qPCR were performed to determine whether FBP1 regulates PD-L1 expression. Co-immunoprecipitation and glutathione S-transferase (GST) pulldown assay were employed to define the underlying regulatory mechanisms. Immunohistochemistry was conducted to determine the correlation between FBP1 and PD-L1 expression in a cohort of patients. A cancer syngeneic mouse model was utilized to examine how FBP1 affects tumor immunity. Results: We demonstrated that in a manner independent of its enzymatic activity FBP1 downregulates the expression of PD-L1 in various cell lines of different cancer types including pancreatic and prostate cancer. We further showed that this regulation occurs at the transcriptional level and is mediated by FBP1 inhibition of signal transducer and activator of transcription-3 (STAT3)-dependent PD-L1 transcription. Moreover, FBP1 and PD-L1 protein expression were negatively correlated in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) specimens from a cohort of patients. Most importantly, we demonstrated that decreased FBP1 expression promotes tumor growth and resistance to immune checkpoint blockade therapy in mice. Conclusions: Our findings reveal a new tumor suppressor function of FBP1 in inhibiting PD-L1 expression and enhancing cancer immunity. They also suggest that FBP1-deficient human cancers could be therapeutically targeted by PD-1/PD-L1-based immune checkpoint blockade therapy.
Keywords: FBP1; PD-L1; STAT3; cancer immunity; checkpoint blockade therapy.
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