Tumor-associated macrophages (TAMs) contribute to the maintenance of a strong immunosuppressive environment, supporting tumor progression and resistance to treatment. To date, the mechanisms that drive acquisition of these immunosuppressive features are still poorly defined. Heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1) is the rate-limiting enzyme that catabolizes free heme. It displays important cytoprotective, antiinflammatory, and antioxidant properties. A growing body of evidence suggests that HO-1 may also promote tumor development. Herein, we show that HO-1 is highly expressed in monocytic cells in the tumor microenvironment (TME) once they differentiate into TAMs. Deletion of HO-1 in the myeloid compartment enhances the beneficial effects of a therapeutic antitumor vaccine by restoring CD8+ T cell proliferation and cytotoxicity. We further show that induction of HO-1 plays a major role in monocyte education by tumor cells by modulating their transcriptional and epigenetic programs. These results identify HO-1 as a valuable therapeutic target to reprogram the TME and synergize with current cancer therapies to facilitate antitumor response.
Emmanuelle Alaluf, Benoît Vokaer, Aurélie Detavernier, Abdulkader Azouz, Marion Splittgerber, Alice Carrette, Louis Boon, Frédérick Libert, Miguel Soares, Alain Le Moine, Stanislas Goriely