M1 macrophages induce PD-L1hi cell-led collective invasion in HPV-positive head and neck squamous cell carcinoma via TNF-{alpha}/CDK4/UPS14

January, 01, 2024 | Select Oncology Journal Articles


Although the roles of PD-L1 in promoting tumor escape from immunosurveillance have been extensively addressed, its non-immune effects on tumor cells remain unclear.


The spatial heterogeneity of PD-L1 staining in human papillomavirus (HPV)-positive head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) tissues was identified by immunohistochemistry. Three-dimensional (3D) specific cell-led invasion assay and 3D cancer spheroid model were used to investigate the roles of PD-L1hileader cells in collective invasion. The impact of M1 macrophages on specific PD-L1 expression in leader cells and its mechanisms were further studied. Finally, the effect of combination therapy of anti-PD-L1 and CDK4 inhibitor on HPV-positive tumors were evaluated on a mice model.


Here, we observed a distinctive marginal pattern of PD-L1 expression in HPV-positive HNSCC tissues. By mimicking this spatial pattern of PD-L1 expression in the 3D invasion assay, we found that PD-L1hi cells led the tumor collective invasion. M1 macrophages induced specific PD-L1 expression in leader cells, and depletion of macrophages in tumor-bearing mice abrogated PD-L1hileader cells and collective invasion. Mechanistically, TNF-α secreted by M1 macrophages markedly increased the abundance of PD-L1 via CDK4/ubiquitin-specific peptidase 14-mediated deubiquitination of PD-L1. We also found that suppression of CDK4 enhanced the efficacy of anti-PD-L1 therapy in an E6/E7 murine model.


Our study identified TNF-α/CDK4/ubiquitin-specific peptidase 14-mediated PD-L1 stability as a novel mechanism underlying M1 macrophage-induced PD-L1hileader cells and collective tumor invasion, and highlighted the potential of the combination therapy of anti-PD-L1 and CDK4 inhibitor for HPV-positive HNSCC.

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