Tumor-infiltrating myeloid cells contribute to the development of the immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment. Myeloid cell expression of arginase 1 (Arg-1) promotes a protumor phenotype by inhibiting T cell function and depleting extracellular L-arginine, but the mechanism underlying this expression, especially in breast cancer, is poorly understood. In breast cancer clinical samples and in our mouse models, we identified tumor derived GM-CSF as the primary regulator of myeloid cell Arg-1 expression and local immune suppression through a gene knockout screen of breast tumor cell-produced factors. The induction of myeloid cell Arg-1 required GM-CSF and a low pH environment. GM-CSF signaling through STAT3, p38 MAPK, and acid signaling through cAMP were required to activate myeloid cell Arg-1 expression in a STAT6 independent manner. Importantly, breast tumor cell-derived GM-CSF promoted tumor progression by inhibiting host anti-tumor immunity, driving a significant accumulation of Arg-1 expressing myeloid cells compared to lung and melanoma tumors with minimal GM-CSF expression. Blockade of tumoral GM-CSF enhanced the efficacy of tumor-specific adoptive T-cell therapy and immune checkpoint blockade. Taken together, breast tumor cell-derived GM-CSF contributes to the development of the immunosuppressive breast cancer microenvironment by regulating myeloid cell Arg-1 expression and can be targeted to enhance breast cancer immunotherapy.
Xinming Su, Yalin Xu, Gregory C. Fox, Jingyu Xiang, Kristin A. Kwakwa, Jennifer L. Davis, Jad I. Belle, Wen-Chih Lee, Wing H. Wong, Francesca Fontana, Leonel Hernandez-Aya, Takayuki Kobayashi, Helen M. Tomasson, Junyi Su, Suzanne J. Bakewell, Sheila A. Stewart, Christopher Egbulefu, Partha Karmakar, Melissa A Meyer, Deborah J. Veis, David G. DeNardo, Gregory M. Lanza, Samuel Achilefu, Katherine N. Weilbaecher