BET-Bromodomain Inhibitors Engage the Host Immune System and Regulate Expression of the Immune Checkpoint Ligand PD-L1

Simon J. Hogg, Stephin J. Vervoort, Sumit Deswal, Christopher J. Ott, Jason Li, Leonie A. Cluse, Paul A. Beavis, Phillip K. Darcy, Benjamin P. Martin, Andrew Spencer, Anna K. Traunbauer, Irina Sadovnik, Karin Bauer, Peter Valent, James E. Bradner, Johannes Zuber, Jake Shortt, Ricky W. Johnstone

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184 Citations (Scopus)


BET inhibitors (BETi) target bromodomain-containing proteins and are currently being evaluated as anti-cancer agents. We find that maximal therapeutic effects of BETi in a Myc-driven B cell lymphoma model required an intact host immune system. Genome-wide analysis of the BETi-induced transcriptional response identified the immune checkpoint ligand Cd274 (Pd-l1) as a Myc-independent, BETi target-gene. BETi directly repressed constitutively expressed and interferon-gamma (IFN-γ) induced CD274 expression across different human and mouse tumor cell lines and primary patient samples. Mechanistically, BETi decreased Brd4 occupancy at the Cd274 locus without any change in Myc occupancy, resulting in transcriptional pausing and rapid loss of Cd274 mRNA production. Finally, targeted inhibition of the PD-1/PD-L1 axis by combining anti-PD-1 antibodies and the BETi JQ1 caused synergistic responses in mice bearing Myc-driven lymphomas. Our data uncover an interaction between BETi and the PD-1/PD-L1 immune-checkpoint and provide mechanistic insight into the transcriptional regulation of CD274.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2162-2174
Number of pages13
JournalCell Reports
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 28 Feb 2017


  • BRD4
  • bromodomain inhibitor
  • immune checkpoint
  • PD-L1

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