Myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSC) are well-known key negative regulators of the immune response during tumor growth, however scattered is the knowledge of their capacity to influence and adapt to the different tumor microenvironments and of the markers that identify those capacities. Here we show that the secreted protein acidic and rich in cysteine (SPARC) identifies in both human and mouse MDSC with immune suppressive capacity and pro-tumoral activities including the induction of epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and angiogenesis. In mice the genetic deletion of SPARC reduced MDSC immune suppression and reverted EMT. Sparc−/− MDSC were less suppressive overall and the granulocytic fraction was more prone to extrude neutrophil extracellular traps (NET). Surprisingly, arginase-I and NOS2, whose expression can be controlled by STAT3, were not down-regulated in Sparc−/− MDSC, although less suppressive than wild type (WT) counterpart. Flow cytometry analysis showed equal phosphorylation of STAT3 but reduced ROS production that was associated with reduced nuclear translocation of the NF-kB p50 subunit in Sparc−/− than WT MDSC. The limited p50 in nuclei reduce the formation of the immunosuppressive p50:p50 homodimers in favor of the p65:p50 inflammatory heterodimers. Supporting this hypothesis, the production of TNF by Sparc−/− MDSC was significantly higher than by WT MDSC. Although associated with tumor-induced chronic inflammation, TNF, if produced at high doses, becomes a key factor in mediating tumor rejection. Therefore, it is foreseeable that an unbalance in TNF production could skew MDSC toward an inflammatory, anti-tumor phenotype. Notably, TNF is also required for inflammation-driven NETosis. The high level of TNF in Sparc−/− MDSC might explain their increased spontaneous NET formation as that we detected both in vitro and in vivo, in association with signs of endothelial damage. We propose SPARC as a new potential marker of MDSC, in both human and mouse, with the additional feature of controlling MDSC suppressive activity while preventing an excessive inflammatory state through the control of NF-kB signaling pathway.
- Breast cancer
- Myeloid-derived suppressor cells
- Neutrophil extracellular traps