Myeloid-Derived Suppressive Cell Expansion Promotes Melanoma Growth and Autoimmunity by Inhibiting CD40/IL27 Regulation in Macrophages

Cancer Res. 2021 Dec 1;81(23):5977-5990. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-21-1148. Epub 2021 Oct 12.


The relationship between cancer and autoimmunity is complex. However, the incidence of solid tumors such as melanoma has increased significantly among patients with previous or newly diagnosed systemic autoimmune disease (AID). At the same time, immune checkpoint blockade (ICB) therapy of cancer induces de novo autoinflammation and exacerbates underlying AID, even without evident antitumor responses. Recently, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) activity was found to drive myeloid-derived suppressor cell (MDSC) formation in patients, a known barrier to healthy immune surveillance and successful cancer immunotherapy. Cross-talk between MDSCs and macrophages generally drives immune suppressive activity in the tumor microenvironment. However, it remains unclear how peripheral pregenerated MDSC under chronic inflammatory conditions modulates global macrophage immune functions and the impact it could have on existing tumors and underlying lupus nephritis. Here we show that pathogenic expansion of SLE-generated MDSCs by melanoma drives global macrophage polarization and simultaneously impacts the severity of lupus nephritis and tumor progression in SLE-prone mice. Molecular and functional data showed that MDSCs interact with autoimmune macrophages and inhibit cell surface expression of CD40 and the production of IL27. Moreover, low CD40/IL27 signaling in tumors correlated with high tumor-associated macrophage infiltration and ICB therapy resistance both in murine and human melanoma exhibiting active IFNγ signatures. These results suggest that preventing global macrophage reprogramming induced by MDSC-mediated inhibition of CD40/IL27 signaling provides a precision melanoma immunotherapy strategy, supporting an original and advantageous approach to treat solid tumors within established autoimmune landscapes. SIGNIFICANCE: Myeloid-derived suppressor cells induce macrophage reprogramming by suppressing CD40/IL27 signaling to drive melanoma progression, simultaneously affecting underlying autoimmune disease and facilitating resistance to immunotherapy within preexisting autoimmune landscapes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autoimmunity*
  • CD40 Antigens / metabolism*
  • Immunotherapy
  • Interleukin-27 / metabolism*
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / physiopathology*
  • Macrophages / immunology
  • Macrophages / metabolism
  • Macrophages / pathology*
  • Melanoma / immunology
  • Melanoma / metabolism
  • Melanoma / pathology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Myeloid-Derived Suppressor Cells / immunology
  • Myeloid-Derived Suppressor Cells / metabolism
  • Myeloid-Derived Suppressor Cells / pathology*
  • Tumor Microenvironment


  • CD40 Antigens
  • Interleukin-27