CD11c-targeted Delivery of DNA to Dendritic Cells Leads to cGAS- and STING-dependent Maturation

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Immunotherapeutic activation of tumor-specific T cells has proven to be an interesting approach in anticancer treatment. Particularly, anti-CTLA-4 and anti–PD-1/PD-L1 treatment looks promising, and conceivably, even better clinical results might be obtained if such treatment could be combined with boosting the existing tumor-specific T-cell response. One way to achieve this could be by increasing the level of maturation of dendritic cells locally and in the draining lymph nodes. When exposed to cancer cells, dendritic cells may spontaneously mature because of danger-associated molecular patterns derived from the tumor cells. Double-stranded DNA play a particularly important role in the activation of the dendritic cells, through engagement of intracellular DNA-sensors, and signaling through the adaptor protein STING. In the present study, we have investigated the maturational response of human monocyte-derived dendritic cells (moDC) and human monocytic THP-1 cells to targeted and untargeted DNA. We used an anti-CD11c antibody conjugated with double-stranded DNA to analyze the maturation status of human moDCs, as well as maturation using a cGAS KO and STING KO THP-1 cell maturation model. We found that dendritic cells can mature after exposure to cytoplasmic double-stranded DNA delivered through CD11c-mediated endocytosis. Moreover, we show that THP-1 cells matured using IL-4, GM-CSF, and ionomycin upregulate DC-maturation markers after CD11c-targeted delivery of double-stranded DNA. This upregulation is completely abrogated in cGAS KO and STING KO cells.

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