Wrinkle in the plan: miR-34a-5p impacts chemokine signaling by modulating CXCL10/CXCL11/CXCR3-axis in CD4+ , CD8+ T cells, and M1 macrophages


Background In 2016 the first-in-human phase I study of a miRNA-based cancer therapy with a liposomal mimic of microRNA-34a-5p (miR-34a-5p) was closed due to five immune related serious adverse events (SAEs) resulting in four patient deaths. For future applications of miRNA mimics in cancer therapy it is mandatory to unravel the miRNA effects both on the tumor tissue and on immune cells. Here, we set out to analyze the impact of miR-34a-5p over-expression on the CXCL10/CXCL11/CXCR3 axis, which is central for the development of an effective cancer control.

Methods We performed a whole genome expression analysis of miR-34a-5p transfected M1 macrophages followed by an over-representation and a protein–protein network analysis. In-silico miRNA target prediction and dual luciferase assays were used for target identification and verification. Target genes involved in chemokine signaling were functionally analyzed in M1 macrophages, CD4+ and CD8+ T cells.

Results A whole genome expression analysis of M1 macrophages with induced miR-34a-5p over-expression revealed an interaction network of downregulated target mRNAs including CXCL10 and CXCL11. In-silico target prediction in combination with dual luciferase assays identified direct binding of miR-34a-5p to the 3′UTRs of CXCL10 and CXCL11. Decreased CXCL10 and CXCL11 secretion was shown on the endogenous protein level and in the supernatant of miR-34a-5p transfected and activated M1 macrophages. To complete the analysis of the CXCL10/CXCL11/CXCR3 axis, we activated miR-34a-5p transfected CD4+ and CD8+ T cells by PMA/Ionomycin and found reduced levels of endogenous CXCR3 and CXCR3 on the cell surface.

Conclusions MiR-34a-5p mimic administered by intravenous administration will likely not only be up-taken by the tumor cells but also by the immune cells. Our results indicate that miR-34a-5p over-expression leads in M1 macrophages to a reduced secretion of CXCL10 and CXCL11 chemokines and in CD4+ and CD8+ T cells to a reduced expression of CXCR3. As a result, less immune cells will be attracted to the tumor site. Furthermore, high levels of miR-34a-5p in naive CD4+ T cells can in turn hinder Th1 cell polarization through the downregulation of CXCR3 leading to a less pronounced activation of cytotoxic T lymphocytes, natural killer, and natural killer T cells and possibly contributing to lymphocytopenia.

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[HNW-R20] Hart, M., Nickl, L., Walch-Rueckheim, B., Krammes, L., Rheinheimer, S., Diener, C.,Taenzer, T., Kehl, T., Sester, M., Lenhof, H.-P., Keller, A., Meese, E. Wrinkle in the plan: miR-34a-5p impacts chemokine signaling by modulating CXCL10/CXCL11/CXCR3-axis in CD4+, CD8+ T cells, and M1 macrophages. Journal for ImmunoTherapy of Cancer, 2020. DOI: 10.1136/jitc-2020-001617.
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