NK cells and tissue-resident innate lymphoid cells (ILCs) are innate effectors found in the skin. To investigate their temporal dynamics and specific functions throughout the development of cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (cSCC), we combined transcriptomic and immunophenotyping analyses in mouse and human cSCCs. We identified an infiltration of NK cells and ILC1s as well as the presence of a few ILC3s. Adoptive transfer of NK cells in NK cell‒ and ILC-deficient Nfil3-/- mice revealed a role for NK cells in early control of cSCC. During tumor progression, we identified a population skewing with the infiltration of atypical ILC1 secreting inflammatory cytokines but reduced levels of IFN-γ at the papilloma stage. NK cells and ILC1s were functionally impaired, with reduced cytotoxicity and IFN-γ secretion associated with the downregulation of activating receptors. They also showed a high degree of heterogeneity in mouse and human cSCCs with the expression of several markers of exhaustion, including TIGIT on NK cells and PD-1 and TIM-3 on ILC1s. Our data show an enrichment in inflammatory ILC1 at the precancerous stage together with impaired antitumor functions in NK cells and ILC1 that could contribute to the development of cSCC and thus suggest that future immunotherapies should take both ILC populations into account.
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