Cancer cells express high levels of PD-L1, a ligand of the PD-1 receptor on T cells, allowing tumors to suppress T cell activity. Clinical trials utilizing antibodies that disrupt the PD-1/PD-L1 checkpoint have yielded remarkable results, with anti-PD-1 immunotherapy approved as first-line therapy for lung cancer patients. We used CRISPR-based screening to identify regulators of PD-L1 in human lung cancer cells, revealing potent induction of PD-L1 upon disruption of heme biosynthesis. Impairment of heme production activates the integrated stress response (ISR), allowing bypass of inhibitory upstream open reading frames in the PD-L1 5' UTR, resulting in enhanced PD-L1 translation and suppression of anti-tumor immunity. We demonstrated that ISR-dependent PD-L1 translation requires the translation initiation factor eIF5B. eIF5B overexpression, which is frequent in lung adenocarcinomas and associated with poor prognosis, is sufficient to induce PD-L1. These findings illuminate mechanisms of immune checkpoint activation and identify targets for therapeutic intervention.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research