miR-21 depletion in macrophages promotes tumoricidal polarization and enhances PD-1 immunotherapy.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

MicroRNA-21 (miR-21) is one of the most abundant microRNAs in mammalian cells. It has been intensively studied for its role in regulating apoptosis and oncogenic transformation. However, the impact of miR-21 on host anti-tumor immunity remains unknown. Tumor-associated macrophages are a major leukocyte type that infiltrates tumors and predominantly develops into immunosuppressive, tumor-promoting M2-like macrophages. In contrast, the pro-inflammatory M1-like macrophages have tumoricidal activity. In this study, we show that genetic deficiency of miR-21 promotes the polarization of macrophages toward an M1-like phenotype in vivo and in vitro in the presence of tumor cells; thus it confers host mice with enhanced anti-tumor immunity. By downregulating JAK2 and STAT1, miR-21 inhibits the IFN-γ-induced STAT1 signaling pathway, which is required for macrophage M1 polarization. We also show that the expression of miR-21 in macrophages is regulated upon polarization stimuli as well as upon macrophages co-culturing with tumor cells. Thus, tumor cells may stimulate miR-21 expression in tumor-associated macrophages to prevent tumoricidal M1 polarization. However, augmented STAT1 signaling mediated by miR-21 deficiency upregulates PD-L1 expression in macrophages, which is known to inhibit phagocytic anti-tumor activity. This adverse effect can be alleviated by PD-1 blockade; indeed, miR-21 depletion in macrophages and PD-1 antibody treatment offer superior anti-tumor activity than either agent alone. These studies shed lights on potential application of the combination of miR-21 inhibition and immune checkpoint blockade to target the tumor microenvironment.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Xi, J; Huang, Q; Wang, L; Ma, X; Deng, Q; Kumar, M; Zhou, Z; Li, L; Zeng, Z; Young, KH; Zhang, M; Li, Y

Published Date

  • June 2018

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 37 / 23

Start / End Page

  • 3151 - 3165

PubMed ID

  • 29540832

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC5993583

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1476-5594

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1038/s41388-018-0178-3


  • eng

Conference Location

  • England