Defining the emergence of myeloid-derived suppressor cells in breast cancer using single-cell transcriptomics

Sci Immunol. 2020 Feb 21;5(44):eaay6017. doi: 10.1126/sciimmunol.aay6017.


Myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs) are innate immune cells that acquire the capacity to suppress adaptive immune responses during cancer. It remains elusive how MDSCs differ from their normal myeloid counterparts, which limits our ability to specifically detect and therapeutically target MDSCs during cancer. Here, we sought to determine the molecular features of breast cancer-associated MDSCs using the widely studied mouse model based on the mouse mammary tumor virus (MMTV) promoter-driven expression of the polyomavirus middle T oncoprotein (MMTV-PyMT). To identify MDSCs in an unbiased manner, we used single-cell RNA sequencing to compare MDSC-containing splenic myeloid cells from breast tumor-bearing mice with wild-type controls. Our computational analysis of 14,646 single-cell transcriptomes revealed that MDSCs emerge through an aberrant neutrophil maturation trajectory in the spleen that confers them an immunosuppressive cell state. We establish the MDSC-specific gene signature and identify CD84 as a surface marker for improved detection and enrichment of MDSCs in breast cancers.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / genetics
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / immunology
  • Breast Neoplasms / immunology
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Cell Differentiation / genetics
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred Strains
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Myeloid-Derived Suppressor Cells / immunology
  • Myeloid-Derived Suppressor Cells / pathology*
  • RNA, Neoplasm / genetics
  • RNA, Neoplasm / immunology
  • Signaling Lymphocytic Activation Molecule Family / genetics
  • Signaling Lymphocytic Activation Molecule Family / immunology
  • Single-Cell Analysis*
  • Transcriptome*


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • CD84 protein, human
  • Cd84 protein, mouse
  • RNA, Neoplasm
  • Signaling Lymphocytic Activation Molecule Family