Interferon-γ (IFN-γ), a key effector molecule in anti-tumor immune response, has been well documented to correlate with the intratumoral infiltration of immune cells. Of interest, however, a high level of IFN-γ has been reported in salivary adenoid cystic carcinoma (SACC), which is actually a type of immunologically cold cancer with few infiltrated immune cells. Investigating the functional significance of IFN-γ in SACC would help to explain such a paradoxical phenomenon. In the present study, we revealed that, compared to oral squamous cell carcinoma cells (a type of immunologically hot cancer), SACC cells were less sensitive to the growth-inhibition effect of IFN-γ. Moreover, the migration and invasion abilities of SACC cells were obviously enhanced upon IFN-γ treatment. In addition, our results revealed that exposure to IFN-γ significantly up-regulated the level of programmed death ligand 1 (PD-L1) on SACC cell-derived small extracellular vesicles (sEVs), which subsequently induced the apoptosis of CD8<sup>+</sup> T cells through antagonizing PD-1. Importantly, it was also found that SACC patients with higher levels of plasma IFN-γ also had higher levels of circulating sEVs that carried PD-L1 on their surface. Our study unveils a mechanism that IFN-γ induces immunosuppression in SACC via sEV PD-L1, which would account for the scarce immune cell infiltration and insensitivity to immunotherapy.
© 2022. The Author(s).