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Recombinant tumor-associated MUC1 glycoprotein impairs the differentiation and function of dendritic cells

Journal article
Authors Aurelia Rughetti
Ilenia Pellicciotta
Mauro Biffoni
Malin Bäckström
Thomas Link
Eric P Bennet
Henrik Clausen
Gunnar C. Hansson
J. Burchell
Luigi Frati
Joyce Taylor-Papadimitriou
Marianna Nuti
Published in J Immunol
Volume 174
Issue 12
Pages 7764-7772
Publication year 2005
Published at Institute of Medical Biochemistry
Pages 7764-7772
Language en
Keywords MUC1, dendritic cells
Subject categories Microbiology in the medical area


Tumors exploit several strategies to evade immune recognition, including the production of a large number of immunosuppressive factors, which leads to reduced numbers and impaired functions of dendritic cells (DCs) in the vicinity of tumors. We have investigated whether a mucin released by tumor cells could be involved in causing these immunomodulating effects on DCs. We used a recombinant purified form of the MUC1 glycoprotein, an epithelial associated mucin that is overexpressed, aberrantly glycosylated, and shed during cancer transformation. The O-glycosylation profile of the recombinant MUC1 glycoprotein (ST-MUC1) resembled that expressed by epithelial tumors in vivo, consisting of large numbers of sialylated core 1 (sialyl-T, ST) oligosaccharides. When cultured in the presence of ST-MUC1, human monocyte-derived DCs displayed a modified phenotype with decreased expression of costimulatory molecules (CD86, CD40), Ag-presenting molecules (DR and CD1d), and differentiation markers (CD83). In contrast, markers associated with an immature phenotype, CD1a and CD206 (mannose receptor), were increased. This effect was already evident at day 4 of DC culture and was dose dependent. The modified phenotype of DCs corresponded to an altered balance in IL-12/IL-10 cytokine production, with DC expressing an IL-10highIL-12low phenotype after exposure to ST-MUC1. These DCs were defective in their ability to induce immune responses in both allogeneic and autologous settings, as detected in proliferation and ELISPOT assays. The altered DC differentiation and Ag presentation function induced by the soluble sialylated tumor-associated mucin may represent a mechanism by which epithelial tumors can escape immunosurveillance.

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