Single-Cell Mapping of Human Brain Cancer Reveals Tumor-Specific Instruction of Tissue-Invading Leukocytes

Cell. 2020 Jun 25;181(7):1626-1642.e20. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2020.04.055. Epub 2020 May 28.


Brain malignancies can either originate from within the CNS (gliomas) or invade from other locations in the body (metastases). A highly immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment (TME) influences brain tumor outgrowth. Whether the TME is predominantly shaped by the CNS micromilieu or by the malignancy itself is unknown, as is the diversity, origin, and function of CNS tumor-associated macrophages (TAMs). Here, we have mapped the leukocyte landscape of brain tumors using high-dimensional single-cell profiling (CyTOF). The heterogeneous composition of tissue-resident and invading immune cells within the TME alone permitted a clear distinction between gliomas and brain metastases (BrM). The glioma TME presented predominantly with tissue-resident, reactive microglia, whereas tissue-invading leukocytes accumulated in BrM. Tissue-invading TAMs showed a distinctive signature trajectory, revealing tumor-driven instruction along with contrasting lymphocyte activation and exhaustion. Defining the specific immunological signature of brain tumors can facilitate the rational design of targeted immunotherapy strategies.

Trial registration: NCT02451423.

Keywords: T cells; Tregs; brain metastases; exhaustion; glioma; macrophages; mass cytometry; microglia; monocytes; tumor microenvironment.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Brain Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Brain Neoplasms / pathology
  • Female
  • Glioma / pathology
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy
  • Leukocytes / immunology*
  • Leukocytes / metabolism
  • Leukocytes / physiology
  • Lymphocyte Activation / immunology
  • Lymphocytes, Tumor-Infiltrating / immunology
  • Macrophages / immunology
  • Macrophages / metabolism
  • Male
  • Microglia / pathology
  • Neoplasm Metastasis / pathology
  • Tumor Microenvironment / immunology*

Associated data