Targeting stromal cell sialylation reverses T cell-mediated immunosuppression in the tumor microenvironment

Cell Rep. 2023 May 30;42(5):112475. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2023.112475. Epub 2023 May 10.


Immunosuppressive tumor microenvironments (TMEs) reduce the effectiveness of immune responses in cancer. Mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs), precursors to cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs), promote tumor progression by enhancing immune cell suppression in colorectal cancer (CRC). Hyper-sialylation of glycans promotes immune evasion in cancer through binding of sialic acids to their receptors, Siglecs, expressed on immune cells, which results in inhibition of effector functions. The role of sialylation in shaping MSC/CAF immunosuppression in the TME is not well characterized. In this study, we show that tumor-conditioned stromal cells have increased sialyltransferase expression, α2,3/6-linked sialic acid, and Siglec ligands. Tumor-conditioned stromal cells and CAFs induce exhausted immunomodulatory CD8+ PD1+ and CD8+ Siglec-7+/Siglec-9+ T cell phenotypes. In vivo, targeting stromal cell sialylation reverses stromal cell-mediated immunosuppression, as shown by infiltration of CD25 and granzyme B-expressing CD8+ T cells in the tumor and draining lymph node. Targeting stromal cell sialylation may overcome immunosuppression in the CRC TME.

Keywords: CP: Cancer; CP: Immunology; T cell exhaustion; T cells; cancer-associated fibroblasts; colon cancer; immunotherapy; inflammation; sialylation; siglecs; stromal cells; tumor microenvironment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes
  • Cancer-Associated Fibroblasts* / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppression Therapy
  • Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Sialic Acid Binding Immunoglobulin-like Lectins / metabolism
  • Stromal Cells / metabolism
  • Tumor Microenvironment


  • Sialic Acid Binding Immunoglobulin-like Lectins