Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Human Genetics

First Advisor

Dr. Joseph Landry


Tumor immunoediting is a dynamic process in which the immune response attacks tumor cells by detecting danger signals and tumor antigens. In order to survive, tumor cells develop mechanisms to avoid detection or destruction by the immune system. To counteract this, several strategies are being developed to enhance the antitumor immune response, including the depletion of immunosuppressive cells, enhancing the activation of antitumor immune cells and increasing tumor cell immunogenicity. These therapies have seen limited success individually, however, and it is likely that combination therapy with novel targets will be necessary to see reproducible beneficial responses. Epigenetic modifications are attractive therapeutic targets because they are reversible and affect gene expression in cancer cells. Within this framework, this study aimed to elucidate the role of the chromatin remodeling complex nucleosome remodeling factor (NURF) in cancer immunoediting by silencing of bromodomain PHD-finger containing transcription factor (BPTF), the largest and essential subunit of NURF. Using two syngeneic mouse models of cancer, BPTF was found to suppress T cell antitumor activity in the tumor microenvironment. In vitro, enhanced cytolytic activity was observed for individual CD8 T cell clones only from mice bearing BPTF-silenced tumors, implicating the involvement of novel antigens. Mechanistic investigations revealed that NURF directly suppresses the expression of genes encoding immunoproteasome subunits Psmb8 and Psmb9 and the antigen transporter genes Tap1 and Tap2. PSMB8 inhibition reversed the effects of BPTF ablation, consistent with a critical role for the immunoproteasome in improving tumor immunogenicity. Thus, NURF normally suppresses tumor cell antigenicity and its depletion improves CD8 T cell antitumor immunity. In a concurrent study using different tumor lines, BPTF was also found to suppress natural killer (NK) cell antitumor immunity in vivo. Enhanced NK cell cytolytic activity toward BPTF-depleted targets in vitro was dependent on the natural cytotoxicity receptors (NCR). Molecular studies revealed that BPTF directly activates heparanase (Hpse) expression, resulting in reduced cell surface abundance of the NCR co-ligands: heparan sulfate proteoglycans. Thus, NURF represses NCR co-ligand abundance and its depletion enhances NK cell cytotoxicity. Therefore, NURF emerges as a candidate therapeutic target to enhance CD8 T or NK cell antitumor immunity.


© Kimberly Mayes

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Immunity Commons