Single-cell transcriptomics reveals shared immunosuppressive landscapes of mouse and human neuroblastoma
BackgroundHigh-risk neuroblastoma is a pediatric cancer with still a dismal prognosis, despite multimodal and intensive therapies. Tumor microenvironment represents a key component of the tumor ecosystem the complexity of which has to be accurately understood to define selective targeting opportunities, including immune-based therapies.MethodsWe combined various approaches including single-cell transcriptomics to dissect the tumor microenvironment of both a transgenic mouse neuroblastoma model and a cohort of 10 biopsies from neuroblastoma patients, either at diagnosis or at relapse. Features of related cells were validated by multicolor flow cytometry and functional assays.ResultsWe show that the immune microenvironment of MYCN-driven mouse neuroblastoma is characterized by a low content of T cells, several phenotypes of macrophages and a population of cells expressing signatures of myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs) that are molecularly distinct from the various macrophage subsets. We document two cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) subsets, one of which corresponding to CAF-S1, known to have immunosuppressive functions. Our data unravel a complex content in myeloid cells in patient tumors and further document a striking correspondence of the microenvironment populations between both mouse and human tumors. We show that mouse intratumor T cells exhibit increased expression of inhibitory receptors at the protein level. Consistently, T cells from patients are characterized by features of exhaustion, expressing inhibitory receptors and showing low expression of effector cytokines. We further functionally demonstrate that MDSCs isolated from mouse neuroblastoma have immunosuppressive properties, impairing the proliferation of T lymphocytes.ConclusionsOur study demonstrates that neuroblastoma tumors have an immunocompromised microenvironment characterized by dysfunctional T cells and accumulation of immunosuppressive cells. Our work provides a new and precious data resource to better understand the neuroblastoma ecosystem and suggest novel therapeutic strategies, targeting both tumor cells and components of the microenvironment.