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Immune checkpoint blockade (ICB) has demonstrated clinical success in "inflamed" tumors with substantial T cell infiltrates, but tumors with an immune-desert tumor microenvironment (TME) fail to benefit. The tumor cell-intrinsic molecular mechanisms of the immune-desert phenotype remain poorly understood. Here, we demonstrated that inactivation of the polycomb-repressive complex 2 (PRC2) core components embryonic ectoderm development (EED) or suppressor of zeste 12 homolog (SUZ12), a prevalent genetic event in malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors (MPNSTs) and sporadically in other cancers, drove a context-dependent immune-desert TME. PRC2 inactivation reprogramed the chromatin landscape that led to a cell-autonomous shift from primed baseline signaling-dependent cellular responses (e.g., IFN-γ signaling) to PRC2-regulated developmental and cellular differentiation transcriptional programs. Further, PRC2 inactivation led to diminished tumor immune infiltrates through reduced chemokine production and impaired antigen presentation and T cell priming, resulting in primary resistance to ICB. Intratumoral delivery of inactivated modified vaccinia virus Ankara (MVA) enhanced tumor immune infiltrates and sensitized PRC2-loss tumors to ICB. Our results identify molecular mechanisms of PRC2 inactivation-mediated, context-dependent epigenetic reprogramming that underline the immune-desert phenotype in cancer. Our studies also point to intratumoral delivery of immunogenic viruses as an initial therapeutic strategy to modulate the immune-desert TME and capitalize on the clinical benefit of ICB.


Juan Yan, Yuedan Chen, Amish J Patel, Sarah Warda, Cindy J Lee, Briana G Nixon, Elissa Wp Wong, Miguel A Miranda-Román, Ning Yang, Yi Wang, Mohini R Pachai, Jessica Sher, Emily Giff, Fanying Tang, Ekta Khurana, Sam Singer, Yang Liu, Phillip M Galbo, Jesper Lv Maag, Richard P Koche, Deyou Zheng, Cristina R Antonescu, Liang Deng, Ming O Li, Yu Chen, Ping Chi. Tumor-intrinsic PRC2 inactivation drives a context-dependent immune-desert microenvironment and is sensitized by immunogenic viruses. The Journal of clinical investigation. 2022 Sep 01;132(17)

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PMID: 35852856

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