Cell death & disease

Functional expression cloning identifies COX-2 as a suppressor of antigen-specific cancer immunity.

PMID 25501829


The efficacy of immune surveillance and antigen-specific cancer immunotherapy equally depends on the activation of a sustained immune response targeting cancer antigens and the susceptibility of cancer cells to immune effector mechanisms. Using functional expression cloning and T-cell receptor (TCR) transgenic mice, we have identified cyclooxygenase 2/prostaglandin-endoperoxide synthase 2 (COX-2) as resistance factor against the cytotoxicity induced by activated, antigen-specific T cells. Expressing COX-2, but not a catalytically inactive COX-2 mutant, increased the clonogenic survival of E1A-transformed murine cancer cells when cocultured with lymphocytes from St42Rag2(-/-) mice harboring a transgenic TCR directed against an E1A epitope. COX-2 expressing tumors established in immune-deficient mice were less susceptible to adoptive immunotherapy with TCR transgenic lymphocytes in vivo. Also, immune surveillance of COX-2-positive tumor cells in TCR transgenic mice was less efficient. The growth of murine MC-GP tumors, which show high endogenous COX-2 expression, in immunocompetent mice was effectively suppressed by treatment with a selective COX-2 inhibitor, celecoxib. Mechanistically, COX-2 expression blunted the interferon-gamma release of antigen-specific T cells exposed to their respective cellular targets, and increased the expression of interleukin-4 and indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase by tumor cells. Addition of interferon-gamma sensitized COX-2 expressing cancer cells to tumor suppression by antigen-specific T cells. In conclusion, COX-2, which is frequently induced in colorectal cancer, contributes to immune evasion and resistance to antigen-specific cancer immunotherapy by local suppression of T-cell effector functions.