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(, ) DNA methylation correlates with LAG3 expression by tumor and immune cells, immune cell infiltration, and overall survival in clear cell renal cell carcinoma.

Journal for immunotherapy of cancer

Authors: Niklas Klümper, Damian J Ralser, Emma Grace Bawden, Jenny Landsberg, Romina Zarbl, Glen Kristiansen, Marieta Toma, Manuel Ritter, Michael Hölzel, Jörg Ellinger, Dimo Dietrich

BACKGROUND: Lymphocyte activating 3 (LAG3, LAG-3, CD223) is a promising target for immune checkpoint inhibition in clear cell renal cell carcinoma (KIRC). The aim of this study was to investigate the epigenetic regulation of in KIRC by methylation.

METHODS: We correlated quantitative methylation levels with transcriptional activity, immune cell infiltration, and overall survival in a cohort of n=533 patients with KIRC and n=160 normal adjacent tissue (NAT) samples obtained from The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA). Furthermore, we analyzed methylation in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) and KIRC cell lines. We validated correlations between LAG3 expression, immune cell infiltrates, survival, and methylation in an independent KIRC cohort (University Hospital Bonn (UHB) cohort, n=118) by means of immunohistochemistry and quantitative methylation-specific PCR.

RESULTS: We found differential methylation profiles among PBMCs, NAT, KIRC cell lines, and KIRC tumor tissue. Methylation strongly correlated with LAG3 mRNA expression in KIRCs (TCGA cohort) and KIRC cell lines. In the UHB cohort, methylation correlated with LAG3-positive immune cells and tumor-intrinsic LAG3 protein expression. Furthermore, methylation strongly correlated with signatures of distinct immune cell infiltrates, an interferon-y signature (TCGA cohort), and immunohistochemically quantified CD45, CD8, and CD4 immune cell infiltrates (UHB cohort). LAG3 mRNA expression (TCGA cohort), methylation (both cohorts), and tumor cell-intrinsic protein expression (UHB cohort) was significantly associated with overall survival.

CONCLUSION: Our data suggest an epigenetic regulation of LAG3 expression in tumor and immune cells via DNA methylation. LAG3 expression and methylation is associated with a subset of KIRCs showing a distinct clinical course and immunogenicity. Our study provides rationale for further testing DNA methylation as a predictive biomarker for response to LAG3 immune checkpoint inhibitors.

© Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2020. Re-use permitted under CC BY-NC. No commercial re-use. See rights and permissions. Published by BMJ.

PMID: 32234847

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