TGFBI Production by Macrophages Contributes to an Immunosuppressive Microenvironment in Ovarian Cancer

Cancer Res. 2021 Nov 15;81(22):5706-5719. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-21-0536. Epub 2021 Sep 24.


The tumor microenvironment evolves during malignant progression, with major changes in nonmalignant cells, cytokine networks, and the extracellular matrix (ECM). In this study, we aimed to understand how the ECM changes during neoplastic transformation of serous tubal intraepithelial carcinoma lesions (STIC) into high-grade serous ovarian cancers (HGSOC). Analysis of the mechanical properties of human fallopian tubes (FT) and ovaries revealed that normal FT and fimbria had a lower tissue modulus, a measure of stiffness, than normal or diseased ovaries. Proteomic analysis of the matrisome fraction between FT, fimbria, and ovaries showed significant differences in the ECM protein TGF beta induced (TGFBI, also known as βig-h3). STIC lesions in the fimbria expressed high levels of TGFBI, which was predominantly produced by CD163-positive macrophages proximal to STIC epithelial cells. In vitro stimulation of macrophages with TGFβ and IL4 induced secretion of TGFBI, whereas IFNγ/LPS downregulated macrophage TGFBI expression. Immortalized FT secretory epithelial cells carrying clinically relevant TP53 mutations stimulated macrophages to secrete TGFBI and upregulated integrin αvβ3, a putative TGFBI receptor. Transcriptomic HGSOC datasets showed a significant correlation between TGFBI expression and alternatively activated macrophage signatures. Fibroblasts in HGSOC metastases expressed TGFBI and stimulated macrophage TGFBI production in vitro. Treatment of orthotopic mouse HGSOC tumors with an anti-TGFBI antibody reduced peritoneal tumor size, increased tumor monocytes, and activated β3-expressing unconventional T cells. In conclusion, TGFBI may favor an immunosuppressive microenvironment in STICs that persists in advanced HGSOC. Furthermore, TGFBI may be an effector of the tumor-promoting actions of TGFβ and a potential therapeutic target. SIGNIFICANCE: Analysis of ECM changes during neoplastic transformation reveals a role for TGFBI secreted by macrophages in immunosuppression in early ovarian cancer.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cystadenocarcinoma, Serous / genetics
  • Cystadenocarcinoma, Serous / immunology
  • Cystadenocarcinoma, Serous / metabolism
  • Cystadenocarcinoma, Serous / pathology*
  • Extracellular Matrix / immunology
  • Extracellular Matrix / metabolism
  • Extracellular Matrix / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Macrophages / immunology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / genetics
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / immunology
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Peritoneal Neoplasms / genetics
  • Peritoneal Neoplasms / immunology
  • Peritoneal Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Peritoneal Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Prognosis
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta1 / genetics
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta1 / metabolism*
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured
  • Tumor Microenvironment*
  • Xenograft Model Antitumor Assays


  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • TGFB1 protein, human
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta1