Despite the accepted dogma that TRAIL kills only tumor cells and spares normal ones, we show in this study that mononuclear phagocytes are susceptible to recombinant TRAIL via caspase-dependent apoptosis. Human resting monocytes and in vitro-differentiated macrophages expressed substantial levels of the functional TRAIL receptors (TRAIL-R1 and TRAIL-R2), while neutrophils and lymphocytes mostly expressed the non-signaling decoy receptor (TRAIL-R3). Accordingly, exclusively monocytes and macrophages activated caspase-8 and underwent apoptosis upon recombinant TRAIL treatment. TRAIL-Rs were up-regulated by anti-inflammatory agents (IL-10, glucocorticoids) and by natural compounds (Apigenin, Quercetin, Palmitate) and their treatment resulted in increased TRAIL-induced apoptosis. In mice, the only signaling TRAIL-R (DR5) was preferentially expressed by blood monocytes rather than neutrophils or lymphocytes. In both mice and humans, Tumor-Associated Macrophages (TAM) expressed functional TRAIL-R, while resident macrophages in normal tissues did not. As a proof of principle, we treated mice bearing a murine TRAIL-resistant fibrosarcoma with recombinant TRAIL. We observed significant decrease of circulating monocytes and infiltrating TAM, as well as reduced tumor growth and lower metastasis formation. Overall, these findings demonstrate that human and murine monocytes/macrophages are, among leukocytes, uniquely susceptible to TRAIL-mediated killing. This differential susceptibility to TRAIL could be exploited to selectively target macrophages in tumors.
- Journal Article