The role of tumor-associated macrophages (TAMs), along with the regulatory mechanisms underlying distinct macrophage activation states, remains poorly understood in prostate cancer (PCa). Herein, we report that PCa growth in mice with macrophage-specific Ubc9 deficiency is substantially suppressed compared with that in wild-type littermates, an effect partially ascribed to the augmented CD8+ T cell response. Biochemical and molecular analyses revealed that signal transducer and activator of transcription 4 (STAT4) is a crucial UBC9-mediated SUMOylation target, with lysine residue 350 (K350) as the major modification site. Site-directed mutation of STAT4 (K350R) enhanced its nuclear translocation and stability, thereby facilitating the proinflammatory activation of macrophages. Importantly, administration of the UBC9 inhibitor 2-D08 promoted the antitumor effect of TAMs and increased the expression of PD-1 on CD8+ T cells, supporting a synergistic antitumor efficacy once it combined with the immune checkpoint blockade therapy. Together, our results demonstrate that ablation of UBC9 could reverse the immunosuppressive phenotype of TAMs by promoting STAT4-mediated macrophage activation and macrophage-CD8+ T cell crosstalk, which provides valuable insights to halt the pathogenic process of tumorigenesis.
Keywords: Cancer immunotherapy; Immunology; Macrophages; Oncology; Prostate cancer.