While type-I interferons (IFNs) play critical roles in antiviral and antitumor activity, it remains to be elucidated how type-I IFNs are produced in sterile conditions of the tumor microenvironment and directly impacts tumor-infiltrating immune cells. We report that both human and de novo mouse gliomas show increased expression of type-I IFN messages, and in mice, CD11b+ brain-infiltrating leukocytes (BILs) are the main source of type-I IFNs that is induced partially in a STING (stimulator of IFN genes)-dependent manner. Consequently, glioma-bearing StingGt/Gt mice showed shorter survival, and lower expression levels of Ifns compared with wild-type mice. Furthermore, BILs of StingGt/Gt mice show increased CD11b+ Gr-1+ immature myeloid suppressor and CD25+ Foxp3+ regulatory T (Treg) cells, while decreased IFN-γ-producing CD8+ T cells. To determine the effects of type-I IFN expression in the glioma microenvironment, we utilized a novel reporter mouse model, in which the type-I IFN signaling induces the Mx1 (IFN-induced GTP-binding protein) promoter-driven Cre recombinase, which turns the expression of loxp-flanked tdTomato off, and turns green fluorescence protein (GFP) expression on, thereby enabling us to monitor the induction and effects of IFN signaling in the glioma microenvironment. CD4+ T cells that received direct type-I IFN signals (i.e., GFP+ cells) demonstrate lesser degrees of regulatory activity based on lower Foxp3 and Tgfb1 expression levels (Figure 1) as well as lesser suppression of CD8+ T cell proliferation (Figure B). IFN-sensed CD8+ T cells exhibit enhanced levels of Th1 markers, Tbx21 and Igfng (Figure C), as well as cytotoxic T-cell activity based on reverse antibody-dependent T-cell-mediated cytotoxicity assay (Figure D). Finally, intratumoral administration of a STING agonist (cyclic diguanylate monophosphate; c-di-GMP) improves the survival of glioma-bearing mice associated with enhanced type-I IFN signaling, Cxcl10 and Ccl5 and T cell migration into the brain. In a combination with subcutaneous OVA peptide-vaccination, c-di-GMP increased OVA-specific cytotoxicity of BILs and prolonged the survival. These data demonstrate significant contributions of STING to antitumor immunity via enhancement of the type-I IFN signaling in the tumor microenvironment, and imply a potential use of STING agonists for development of effective immunotherapy, such as the combination with antigen-specific vaccinations.
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