Impaired CXCL12 signaling contributes to resistance of pancreatic cancer subpopulations to T cell-mediated cytotoxicity

Oncoimmunology. 2022 Feb 3;11(1):2027136. doi: 10.1080/2162402X.2022.2027136. eCollection 2022.


Pancreatic cancer remains largely unresponsive to immune modulatory therapy attributable in part to an immunosuppressive, desmoplastic tumor microenvironment. Here, we analyze mechanisms of cancer cell-autonomous resistance to T cells. We used a 3D co-culture model of cancer cell spheroids from the KPC (LSL-KrasG12D/+ /LSL-Trp53R172H/+ /p48-Cre) pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) model, to examine interactions with tumor-educated T cells isolated from draining lymph nodes of PDAC-bearing mice. Subpopulations of cancer cells resistant to these tumor-educated T cells were isolated from the in vitro co-culture and their properties compared with sensitive cancer cells. In co-culture with resistant cancer cell subpopulations, tumor-educated T cells showed reduced effector T cell functionality, reduced infiltration into tumor cell spheroids and decreased induction of apoptosis. A combination of comparative transcriptomic analyses, cytometric and immunohistochemistry techniques allowed us to dissect the role of differential gene expression and signaling pathways between sensitive and resistant cells. A decreased expression of the chemokine CXCL12 (SDF-1) was revealed as a common feature in the resistant cell subpopulations. Adding back CXCL12 reversed the resistant phenotype and was inhibited by the CXCR4 inhibitor AMD3100 (plerixafor). We conclude that reduced CXCL12 signaling contributes to PDAC subpopulation resistance to T cell-mediated attack.

Keywords: T cell resistance; chemokines; co-culture; cytotoxicity; pancreatic cancer.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis
  • Carcinoma, Pancreatic Ductal* / drug therapy
  • Carcinoma, Pancreatic Ductal* / genetics
  • Carcinoma, Pancreatic Ductal* / metabolism
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cell Mobilization
  • Heterocyclic Compounds* / pharmacology
  • Mice
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms* / genetics
  • T-Lymphocytes
  • Tumor Microenvironment


  • Heterocyclic Compounds

Supplementary concepts

  • Pancreatic Carcinoma