Merkel cell carcinoma and immune evasion: Merkel cell polyomavirus small T-antigen induced surface changes can be reverted by therapeutic intervention


Merkel cell polyomavirus is the causative agent for most Merkel cell carcinomas (MCCs). This highly aggressive skin cancer shows rapid progression, with metastasis being a significant challenge for patient therapy. Virus-positive MCCs show low mutation rates, and tumor cell proliferation is dependent on viral oncoproteins small T antigen (sT) and large T antigen. Although the role of sT and large T antigen in early events of tumorigenesis has been extensively studied, their role in tumor progression has been scarcely addressed. In this study, we investigate the possible mechanisms of how Merkel cell polyomavirus oncoproteins, particularly sTs, contribute to metastasis. We show that sT specifically affects selectin ligand binding and processing by altering the presentation of multiple MCC surface molecules, thereby influencing initial metastasis events and tumor cell immune recognition. Furthermore, we show that sT regulates the surface antigen CD47, which inhibits phagocytosis by macrophages. By applying either sT short hairpin RNAs, CD47-targeted small interfering RNAs, or a therapeutic anti-CD47 antibody, we show that immune recognition of MCC cells can be restored. Thus, CD47 is a promising therapeutic target on MCC cells. Blocking the CD47‒SIRPα interaction effectively promotes phagocytosis of MCC cells and might be a promising combinatorial immunotherapy approach together with PD-1/PD-L1 axis in MCC treatment.

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StatusVeröffentlicht - 11.2022

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Copyright © 2022 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

PubMed 35636504