The ability of Tregs to control the development of immune responses is essential for maintaining immune system homeostasis. However, Tregs also inhibit the development of efficient antitumor responses. Here, we explored the characteristics and mechanistic basis of the Treg-intrinsic CTLA4/PKCη signaling pathway that we recently found to be required for contact-dependent Treg-mediated suppression. We show that PKCη is required for the Treg-mediated suppression of tumor immunity in vivo. The presence of PKCη-deficient (Prkch–/–) Tregs in the tumor microenvironment was associated with a significantly increased expression of the costimulatory molecule CD86 on intratumoral CD103+ DCs, enhanced priming of antigen-specific CD8+ T cells, and greater levels of effector cytokines produced by these cells. Similar to mouse Tregs, the GIT/PAK/PIX complex also operated downstream of CTLA4 and PKCη in human Tregs, and GIT2 knockdown in Tregs promoted antitumor immunity. Collectively, our data suggest that targeting the CTLA4/PKCη/GIT/PAK/PIX signaling pathway in Tregs could represent a novel immunotherapeutic strategy to alleviate the negative impact of Tregs on antitumor immune responses.
Christophe Pedros, Ann J. Canonigo-Balancio, Kok-Fai Kong, Amnon Altman