Tumor-infiltrating myeloid cells contribute to the development of the immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment. Myeloid cell expression of arginase 1 (ARG1) promotes a protumor phenotype by inhibiting T cell function and depleting extracellular l-arginine, but the mechanism underlying this expression, especially in breast cancer, is poorly understood. In breast cancer clinical samples and in our mouse models, we identified tumor-derived GM-CSF as the primary regulator of myeloid cell ARG1 expression and local immune suppression through a gene-KO screen of breast tumor cell-produced factors. The induction of myeloid cell ARG1 required GM-CSF and a low pH environment. GM-CSF signaling through STAT3 and p38 MAPK and acid signaling through cAMP were required to activate myeloid cell ARG1 expression in a STAT6-independent manner. Importantly, breast tumor cell-derived GM-CSF promoted tumor progression by inhibiting host antitumor immunity, driving a significant accumulation of ARG1-expressing myeloid cells compared with lung and melanoma tumors with minimal GMCSF expression. Blockade of tumoral GM-CSF enhanced the efficacy of tumor-specific adoptive T cell therapy and immune checkpoint blockade. Taken together, we show that breast tumor cell-derived GM-CSF contributes to the development of the immunosuppressive breast cancer microenvironment by regulating myeloid cell ARG1 expression and can be targeted to enhance breast cancer immunotherapy.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere145296
JournalJournal of Clinical Investigation
Issue number20
StatePublished - 2021


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