Suppression of microRNA activity amplifies IFN-γ-induced macrophage activation and promotes anti-tumor immunity
Tumour-associated macrophages (TAMs) largely express an alternatively activated (or M2) phenotype, which entails immunosuppressive and tumour-promoting capabilities. Reprogramming TAMs towards a classically activated (M1) phenotype may thwart tumour-associated immunosuppression and unleash anti-tumour immunity. Here we show that conditional deletion of the microRNA (miRNA)-processing enzyme DICER in macrophages prompts M1-like TAM programming, characterized by hyperactive IFN-γ/STAT1 signalling. This rewiring abated the immunosuppressive capacity of TAMs and fostered the recruitment of activated cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) to the tumours. CTL-derived IFN-γ exacerbated M1 polarization of Dicer1-deficient TAMs and inhibited tumour growth. Remarkably, DICER deficiency in TAMs negated the anti-tumoral effects of macrophage depletion by anti-CSF1R antibodies, and enabled complete tumour eradication by PD1 checkpoint blockade or CD40 agonistic antibodies. Finally, genetic rescue of Let-7 miRNA activity in Dicer1-deficient TAMs partly restored their M2-like phenotype and decreased tumour-infiltrating CTLs. These findings suggest that DICER/Let-7 activity opposes IFN-γ-induced, immunostimulatory M1-like TAM activation, with potential therapeutic implications.