Understanding tumor resistance to T cell immunotherapies is critical to improve patient outcomes. Our study revealed a role for transcriptional suppression of the tumor-intrinsic HLA class I (HLA-I) antigen processing and presentation machinery (APM) in therapy resistance. Low HLA-I APM mRNA levels in melanoma metastases prior to immune checkpoint blockade (ICB) correlated with non-responsiveness to therapy and poor clinical outcome. Patient-derived melanoma cells with silenced HLA-I APM escaped recognition by autologous CD8+ T cells. However, targeted activation of the innate immunoreceptor RIG-I initiated de novo HLA-I APM transcription thereby overcoming T cell resistance. Antigen presentation was restored in interferon (IFN)-sensitive but also immunoedited IFN-resistant melanoma models through RIG-I-dependent stimulation of an IFN-independent salvage pathway involving IRF1 and IRF3. Likewise, enhanced HLA-I APM expression was detected in RIG-I (DDX58)-high melanoma biopsies, correlating with improved patient survival. Induction of HLA-I APM by RIG-I synergized with antibodies blocking PD-1 and TIGIT inhibitory checkpoints in boosting the anti-tumor T cell activity of ICB non-responders. Overall, the herein identified IFN-independent effect of RIG-I on tumor antigen presentation and T cell recognition proposes innate immunoreceptor targeting as a strategy to overcome intrinsic T cell resistance of IFN-sensitive and IFN-resistant melanomas and improve clinical outcomes in immunotherapy.
Lina Such, Fang Zhao, Derek Liu, Beatrice Thier, Vu Thuy Khanh Le-Trilling, Antje Sucker, Christoph Coch, Natalia Pieper, Sebastian Howe, Hilal Bhat, Halime Kalkavan, Cathrin Ritter, Robin Brinkhaus, Selma Ugurel, Johannes Köster, Ulrike Seifert, Ulf Dittmer, Martin Schuler, Karl Sebastian Lang, Thomas A Kufer, Gunther Hartmann, Jürgen Christian Becker, Susanne Horn, Soldano Ferrone, David Liu, Eliezer M. Van Allen, Dirk Schadendorf, Klaus Griewank, Mirko Trilling, Annette Paschen