Antibody therapeutic targeting of the immune checkpoints cytotoxic T-lymphocyte-associated molecule 4 (CTLA-4) and programmed cell death 1 (PD-1) has demonstrated marked tumor regression in clinical trials. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) can modulate multiple gene transcripts including possibly more than one immune checkpoint and could be exploited as immune therapeutics.Methods
Using online miRNA targeting prediction algorithms, we searched for miRNAs that were predicted to target both PD-1 and CTLA-4. MiR-138 emerged as a leading candidate. The effects of miR-138 on CTLA-4 and PD-1 expression and function in T cells were determined and the therapeutic effect of intravenous administration of miR-138 was investigated in both immune-competent and -incompetent murine models of GL261 glioma.Results
Target binding algorithms predicted that miR-138 could bind the 3′ untranslated regions of CTLA-4 and PD-1, which was confirmed with luciferase expression assays. Transfection of human CD4+ T cells with miR-138 suppressed expression of CTLA-4, PD-1, and Forkhead box protein 3 (FoxP3) in transfected human CD4+ T cells. In vivo miR-138 treatment of GL261 gliomas in immune-competent mice demonstrated marked tumor regression, a 43% increase in median survival time (P = .011), and an associated decrease in intratumoral FoxP3+ regulatory T cells, CTLA-4, and PD-1 expression. This treatment effect was lost in nude immune-incompetent mice and with depletion of CD4+ or CD8+ T cells, and miR-138 had no suppressive effect on glioma cells when treated directly at physiological in vivo doses.Conclusions
MiR-138 exerts anti-glioma efficacy by targeting immune checkpoints which may have rapid translational potential as a novel immunotherapeutic agent.