Tgfbi production by macrophages contributes to an immunosuppressive microenvironment in ovarian cancer

Laura S.M. Lecker, Chiara Berlato, Eleni Maniati, Robin Delaine-Smith, Oliver M.T. Pearce, Owen Heath, Samuel J. Nichols, Caterina Trevisan, Marian Novak, Jacqueline McDermott, James D. Brenton, Pedro R. Cutillas, Vinothini Rajeeve, Ana Hennino, Ronny Drapkin, Daniela Loessner, Frances R. Balkwill

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The tumor microenvironment evolves during malignant progression, with major changes in nonmalignant cells, cytokine networks, and the extracellular matrix (ECM). In this study, we aimed to understand how the ECM changes during neoplastic transformation of serous tubal intraepithelial carcinoma lesions (STIC) into high-grade serous ovarian cancers (HGSOC). Analysis of the mechanical properties of human fallopian tubes (FT) and ovaries revealed that normal FT and fimbria had a lower tissue modulus, a measure of stiffness, than normal or diseased ovaries. Proteomic analysis of the matrisome fraction between FT, fimbria, and ovaries showed significant differences in the ECM protein TGF beta induced (TGFBI, also known as big-h3). STIC lesions in the fimbria expressed high levels of TGFBI, which was predominantly produced by CD163-positive macrophages proximal to STIC epithelial cells. In vitro stimulation of macrophages with TGFβ and IL4 induced secretion of TGFBI, whereas IFNγ/LPS downregulated macrophage TGFBI expression. Immortalized FT secretory epithelial cells carrying clinically relevant TP53 mutations stimulated macrophages to secrete TGFBI and upregulated integrin αvβ3, a putative TGFBI receptor. Transcriptomic HGSOC datasets showed a significant correlation between TGFBI expression and alternatively activated macrophage signatures. Fibroblasts in HGSOC metastases expressed TGFBI and stimulated macrophage TGFBI production in vitro. Treatment of orthotopic mouse HGSOC tumors with an anti-TGFBI antibody reduced peritoneal tumor size, increased tumor monocytes, and activated β3-expressing unconventional T cells. In conclusion, TGFBI may favor an immunosuppressive microenvironment in STICs that persists in advanced HGSOC. Furthermore, TGFBI may be an effector of the tumor-promoting actions of TGFβ and a potential therapeutic target.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5706-5719
Number of pages14
JournalCancer Research
Issue number22
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2021
Externally publishedYes

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