Tumor-intrinsic NLRP3-HSP70-TLR4 axis drives premetastatic niche development and hyperprogression during anti-PD-1 immunotherapy

Sci Transl Med. 2022 Nov 23;14(672):eabq7019. doi: 10.1126/scitranslmed.abq7019. Epub 2022 Nov 23.


The tumor-intrinsic NOD-, LRR- and pyrin domain-containing protein-3 (NLRP3) inflammasome-heat shock protein 70 (HSP70) signaling axis is triggered by CD8+ T cell cytotoxicity and contributes to the development of adaptive resistance to anti-programmed cell death protein 1 (PD-1) immunotherapy by recruiting granulocytic polymorphonuclear myeloid-derived suppressor cells (PMN-MDSCs) into the tumor microenvironment. Here, we demonstrate that the tumor NLRP3-HSP70 axis also drives the accumulation of PMN-MDSCs into distant lung tissues in a manner that depends on lung epithelial cell Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) signaling, establishing a premetastatic niche that supports disease hyperprogression in response to anti-PD-1 immunotherapy. Lung epithelial HSP70-TLR4 signaling induces the downstream Wnt5a-dependent release of granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF) and C-X-C motif chemokine ligand 5 (CXCL5), thus promoting myeloid granulopoiesis and recruitment of PMN-MDSCs into pulmonary tissues. Treatment with anti-PD-1 immunotherapy enhanced the activation of this pathway through immunologic pressure and drove disease progression in the setting of Nlrp3 amplification. Genetic and pharmacologic inhibition of NLRP3 and HSP70 blocked PMN-MDSC accumulation in the lung in response to anti-PD-1 therapy and suppressed metastatic progression in preclinical models of melanoma and breast cancer. Elevated baseline concentrations of plasma HSP70 and evidence of NLRP3 signaling activity in tumor tissue specimens correlated with the development of disease hyperprogression and inferior survival in patients with stage IV melanoma undergoing anti-PD-1 immunotherapy. Together, this work describes a pathogenic mechanism underlying the phenomenon of disease hyperprogression in melanoma and offers candidate targets and markers capable of improving the management of patients with melanoma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Disease Progression
  • HSP70 Heat-Shock Proteins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy
  • Melanoma* / pathology
  • NLR Family, Pyrin Domain-Containing 3 Protein / metabolism
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4*
  • Tumor Microenvironment


  • Toll-Like Receptor 4
  • NLR Family, Pyrin Domain-Containing 3 Protein
  • HSP70 Heat-Shock Proteins
  • TLR4 protein, human