The tumor microenvironment (TME) is a complex amalgam of tumor cells, immune cells, endothelial cells and fibroblastic stromal cells (FSC). Cancer-associated fibroblasts are generally seen as tumor-promoting entity. However, it is conceivable that particular FSC populations within the TME contribute to immune-mediated tumor control. Here, we show that intratumoral treatment of mice with a recombinant lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus-based vaccine vector expressing a melanocyte differentiation antigen resulted in T cell-dependent long-term control of melanomas. Using single-cell RNA-seq analysis, we demonstrate that viral vector-mediated transduction reprogrammed and activated a Cxcl13-expressing FSC subset that show a pronounced immunostimulatory signature and increased expression of the inflammatory cytokine IL-33. Ablation of Il33 gene expression in Cxcl13-Cre-positive FSCs reduces the functionality of intratumoral T cells and unleashes tumor growth. Thus, reprogramming of FSCs by a self-antigen-expressing viral vector in the TME is critical for curative melanoma treatment by locally sustaining the activity of tumor-specific T cells.
© 2021. The Author(s).