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Protein O-fucosyltransferase 1 promotes PD-L1 stability to drive immune evasion and directs liver cancer to immunotherapy

June, 06, 2024 | Select Oncology Journal Articles

Background and aims

The immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment (TME) plays an essential role in cancer progression and immunotherapy response. Despite the considerable advancements in cancer immunotherapy, the limited response to immune checkpoint blockade (ICB) therapies in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) remains a major challenge for its clinical implications. Here, we investigated the molecular basis of the protein O-fucosyltransferase 1 (POFUT1) that drives HCC immune evasion and explored a potential therapeutic strategy for enhancing ICB efficacy.

Methods

De novo MYC/Trp53–/– liver tumor and the xenograft tumor models were used to evaluate the function of POFUT1 in immune evasion. Biochemical assays were performed to elucidate the underlying mechanism of POFUT1-mediated immune evasion.

Results

We identified POFUT1 as a crucial promoter of immune evasion in liver cancer. Notably, POFUT1 promoted HCC progression and inhibited T-cell infiltration in the xenograft tumor and de novo MYC/Trp53–/– mouse liver tumor models. Mechanistically, we demonstrated that POFUT1 stabilized programmed death ligand 1 (PD-L1) protein by preventing tripartite motif containing 21-mediated PD-L1 ubiquitination and degradation independently of its protein-O-fucosyltransferase activity. In addition, we further demonstrated that PD-L1 was required for the tumor-promoting and immune evasion effects of POFUT1 in HCC. Importantly, inhibition of POFUT1 could synergize with anti-programmed death receptor 1 therapy by remodeling TME in the xenograft tumor mouse model. Clinically, POFUT1 high expression displayed a lower response rate and worse clinical outcome to ICB therapies.

Conclusions

Our findings demonstrate that POFUT1 functions as a novel regulator of tumor immune evasion and inhibition of POFUT1 may be a potential therapeutic strategy to enhance the efficacy of immune therapy in HCC.

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