Catecholamines released by sympathetic nerves can activate adrenergic receptors present on nearly every cell type, including myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs). Using in vitro systems, murine tumor models in wild-type and genetically modified (β2-AR–/–) mice, and adoptive transfer approaches, we found that the degree of β2-AR signaling significantly influences MDSC frequency and survival in tumors and other tissues. It also modulates their expression of immunosuppressive molecules such as arginase-I and PD-L1 and alters their ability to suppress the proliferation of T cells. The regulatory functions of β2-AR signaling in MDSCs were also found to be dependent upon STAT3 phosphorylation. Moreover, we observed that the β2-AR–mediated increase in MDSC survival is dependent upon Fas-FasL interactions, and this is consistent with gene expression analyses, which reveal a greater expression of apoptosis-related genes in β2-AR–/– MDSCs. Our data reveal the potential of β2-AR signaling to increase the generation of MDSCs from both murine and human peripheral blood cells and that the immunosuppressive function of MDSCs can be mitigated by treatment with β-AR antagonists, or enhanced by β-AR agonists. This strongly supports the possibility that reducing stress-induced activation of β2-ARs could help to overcome immune suppression and enhance the efficacy of immunotherapy and other cancer therapies.
Hemn Mohammadpour, Cameron R. MacDonald, Guanxi Qiao, Minhui Chen, Bowen Dong, Bonnie L. Hylander, Philip L. McCarthy, Scott I. Abrams, Elizabeth A. Repasky