Sphingosine kinase 1 promotes tumor immune evasion by regulating the MTA3-PD-L1 axis

Cell Mol Immunol. 2022 Oct;19(10):1153-1167. doi: 10.1038/s41423-022-00911-z. Epub 2022 Sep 1.


Immune checkpoint blockade (ICB) exhibits considerable benefits in malignancies, but its overall response rate is limited. Previous studies have shown that sphingosine kinases (SPHKs) are critical in the tumor microenvironment (TME), but their role in immunotherapy is unclear. We performed integrative analyses including bioinformatics analysis, functional study, and clinical validation to investigate the role of SPHK1 in tumor immunity. Functionally, we demonstrated that the inhibition of SPHK1 significantly suppressed tumor growth by promoting antitumor immunity in immunocompetent melanoma mouse models and tumor T-cell cocultures. A mechanistic analysis revealed that MTA3 functions as the downstream target of SPHK1 in transcriptionally regulating tumor PD-L1. Preclinically, we found that anti-PD-1 monoclonal antibody (mAb) treatment significantly rescued tumor SPHK1 overexpression or tumor MTA3 overexpression-mediated immune evasion. Significantly, we identified SPHK1 and MTA3 as biological markers for predicting the efficacy of anti-PD-1 mAb therapy in melanoma patients. Our findings revealed a novel role for SPHK1 in tumor evasion mediated by regulating the MTA3-PD-L1 axis, identified SPHK1 and MTA3 as predictors for assessing the efficacy of PD-1 mAb treatment, and provided a therapeutic possibility for the treatment of melanoma patients.

Keywords: Immune checkpoint blockade; Melanoma; Programmed cell death ligand 1; Programmed cell death protein 1; Sphingosine kinase; Tumor microenvironment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / pharmacology
  • B7-H1 Antigen*
  • Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors
  • Immunotherapy
  • Melanoma* / pathology
  • Mice
  • Neoplasm Proteins / metabolism
  • Phosphotransferases (Alcohol Group Acceptor)
  • Programmed Cell Death 1 Receptor
  • Sphingosine
  • Tumor Escape
  • Tumor Microenvironment


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • B7-H1 Antigen
  • Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors
  • Mta3 protein, mouse
  • Neoplasm Proteins
  • Programmed Cell Death 1 Receptor
  • Phosphotransferases (Alcohol Group Acceptor)
  • sphingosine kinase
  • Sphingosine