A hallmark of cancer, including pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDA), is a massive stromal and inflammatory reaction. Many efforts have been made to identify the anti- or protumoral role of cytokines and immune subpopulations within the stroma. Here, we investigated the role of interleukin-17A (IL17A) and its effect on tumor fibroblasts and the tumor microenvironment. We used a spontaneous PDA mouse model (KPC) crossed to IL17A knockout mice to show an extensive desmoplastic reaction, without impaired immune infiltration. Macrophages, especially CD80+ and T cells, were more abundant at the earlier time point. In T cells, a decrease in FoxP3+ cells and an increase in CD8+ T cells were observed in KPC/IL17A-/- mice. Fibroblasts isolated from IL17A+/+ and IL17A-/- KPC mice revealed very different messenger RNA (mRNA) and protein profiles. IL17A-/- fibroblasts displayed the ability to restrain tumor cell invasion by producing factors involved in extracellular matrix remodeling, increasing T cell recruitment, and producing higher levels of cytokines and chemokines favoring T helper 1 cell recruitment and activation and lower levels of those recruiting myeloid/granulocytic immune cells. Single-cell quantitative PCR on isolated fibroblasts confirmed a very divergent profile of IL17A-proficient and -deficient cells. All these features can be ascribed to increased levels of IL17F observed in the sera of IL17A-/- mice, and to the higher expression of its cognate receptor (IL17RC) specifically in IL17A-/- cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs). In addition to the known effects on neoplastic cell transformation, the IL17 cytokine family uniquely affects fibroblasts, representing a suitable candidate target for combinatorial immune-based therapies in PDA.
Keywords: IL17A; cancer-associated fibroblast; extracellular matrix; fibrosis; pancreatic cancer.