Uveal melanoma (UM) is the most common primary cancer of the eye and is associated with a high rate of metastatic death. UM can be stratified into two main classes based on metastatic risk, with class 1 UM having a low metastatic risk and class 2 UM having a high metastatic risk. Class 2 UM have a distinctive genomic, transcriptomic, histopathologic, and clinical phenotype characterized by biallelic inactivation of the BAP1 tumor-suppressor gene, an immune-suppressive microenvironment enriched for M2-polarized macrophages, and poor response to checkpoint-inhibitor immunotherapy. To identify potential mechanistic links between BAP1 loss and immune suppression in class 2 UM, we performed an integrated analysis of UM samples, as well as genetically engineered UM cell lines and uveal melanocytes (UMC). Using RNA sequencing (RNA-seq), we found that the most highly upregulated gene associated with BAP1 loss across these datasets was PROS1, which encodes a ligand that triggers phosphorylation and activation of the immunosuppressive macrophage receptor MERTK. The inverse association between BAP1 and PROS1 in class 2 UM was confirmed by single-cell RNA-seq, which also revealed that MERTK was upregulated in CD163+ macrophages in class 2 UM. Using ChIP-seq, BAP1 knockdown in UM cells resulted in an accumulation of H3K27ac at the PROS1 locus, suggesting epigenetic regulation of PROS1 by BAP1. Phosphorylation of MERTK in RAW 264.7 monocyte–macrophage cells was increased upon coculture with BAP1−/− UMCs, and this phosphorylation was blocked by depletion of PROS1 in the UMCs. These findings were corroborated by multicolor immunohistochemistry, where class 2/BAP1-mutant UMs demonstrated increased PROS1 expression in tumor cells and increased MERTK phosphorylation in CD163+ macrophages compared with class 1/BAP1-wildtype UMs. Taken together, these findings provide a mechanistic link between BAP1 loss and the suppression of the tumor immune microenvironment in class 2 UMs, and they implicate the PROS1–MERTK pathway as a potential target for immunotherapy in UM.
- tumor immune microenvironment
- uveal melanoma
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research