Tumor-initiating stem cell shapes its microenvironment into an immunosuppressive barrier and pro-tumorigenic niche

Cell Rep. 2021 Sep 7;36(10):109674. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2021.109674.


Tumor-initiating stem cells (TSCs) are critical for drug resistance and immune escape. However, the mutual regulations between TSC and tumor microenvironment (TME) remain unclear. Using DNA-label retaining, single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq), and other approaches, we investigated intestinal adenoma in response to chemoradiotherapy (CRT), thus identifying therapy-resistant TSCs (TrTSCs). We find bidirectional crosstalk between TSCs and TME using CellPhoneDB analysis. An intriguing finding is that TSCs shape TME into a landscape that favors TSCs for immunosuppression and propagation. Using adenoma-organoid co-cultures, niche-cell depletion, and lineaging tracing, we characterize a functional role of cyclooxygenase-2 (Cox-2)-dependent signaling, predominantly occurring between tumor-associated monocytes and macrophages (TAMMs) and TrTSCs. We show that TAMMs promote TrTSC proliferation through prostaglandin E2 (PGE2)-PTGER4(EP4) signaling, which enhances β-catenin activity via AKT phosphorylation. Thus, our study shows that the bidirectional crosstalk between TrTSC and TME results in a pro-tumorigenic and immunosuppressive contexture.

Keywords: C5AR1; CD74; EP4; MIF; Pge2; RPS19; immune barrier; mciroenvironment; niche; resistance; stem cell.

Publication types

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