Regulatory T cells in the bone marrow microenvironment in patients with prostate cancer

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Abstract

Human prostate cancer frequently metastasizes to bone marrow. What defines the cellular and molecular predilection for prostate cancer to metastasize to bone marrow is not well understood. CD4+CD25+ regulatory T (Treg) cells contribute to self-tolerance and tumor immune pathology. We now show that functional Treg cells are increased in the bone marrow microenvironment in prostate cancer patients with bone metastasis, and that CXCR4/CXCL12 signaling pathway contributes to Treg cell bone marrow trafficking. Treg cells exhibit active cell cycling in the bone marrow, and bone marrow dendritic cells express high levels of receptor activator of NFκB (RANK), and promote Treg cell expansion through RANK and its ligand (RANKL) signals. Furthermore, Treg cells suppress osteoclast differentiation induced by activated T cells and M-CSF, adoptive transferred Treg cells migrate to bone marrow, and increase bone mineral intensity in the xenograft mouse models with human prostate cancer bone marrow inoculation. In vivo Treg cell depletion results in reduced bone density in tumor bearing mice. The data indicates that bone marrow Treg cells may form an immunosuppressive niche to facilitate cancer bone metastasis and contribute to bone deposition, the major bone pathology in prostate cancer patients with bone metastasis. These findings mechanistically explain why Treg cells accumulate in the bone marrow, and demonstrate a previously unappreciated role for Treg cells in patients with prostate cancer. Thus, targeting Treg cells may not only improve anti-tumor immunity, but also ameliorate bone pathology in prostate cancer patients with bone metastasis.

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