ACKR4 in Tumor Cells Regulates Dendritic Cell Migration to Tumor-Draining Lymph Nodes and T-Cell Priming

Cancers (Basel). 2021 Oct 7;13(19):5021. doi: 10.3390/cancers13195021.


Colorectal cancer (CRC) is one of the most common malignancies in both morbidity and mortality. Immune checkpoint blockade (ICB) treatments have been successful in a portion of mismatch repair-deficient (dMMR) CRC patients but have failed in mismatch repair-proficient (pMMR) CRC patients. Atypical Chemokine Receptor 4 (ACKR4) is implicated in regulating dendritic cell (DC) migration. However, the roles of ACKR4 in CRC development and anti-tumor immunoregulation are not known. By analyzing human CRC tissues, transgenic animals, and genetically modified CRC cells lines, our study revealed an important function of ACKR4 in maintaining CRC immune response. Loss of ACKR4 in CRC is associated with poor immune infiltration in the tumor microenvironment. More importantly, loss of ACKR4 in CRC tumor cells, rather than stromal cells, restrains the DC migration and antigen presentation to the tumor-draining lymph nodes (TdLNs). Moreover, tumors with ACKR4 knockdown become less sensitive to immune checkpoint blockade. Finally, we identified that microRNA miR-552 negatively regulates ACKR4 expression in human CRC. Taken together, our studies identified a novel and crucial mechanism for the maintenance of the DC-mediated T-cell priming in the TdLNs. These new findings demonstrate a novel mechanism leading to immunosuppression and ICB treatment resistance in CRC.

Keywords: Atypical Chemokine Receptor 4 (ACKR4); T-cell priming; colorectal cancer; dendritic cells; immune checkpoint blockade; immune checkpoints.