Redundancy and compensation provide robustness to biological systems but may contribute to therapy resistance. Both tumor-associated macrophages (TAMs) and Foxp3+ regulatory T (Treg) cells promote tumor progression by limiting antitumor immunity. Here we show that genetic ablation of CSF1 in colorectal cancer cells reduces the influx of immunosuppressive CSF1R+ TAMs within tumors. This reduction in CSF1-dependent TAMs resulted in increased CD8+ T cell attack on tumors, but its effect on tumor growth was limited by a compensatory increase in Foxp3+ Treg cells. Similarly, disruption of Treg cell activity through their experimental ablation produced moderate effects on tumor growth and was associated with elevated numbers of CSF1R+ TAMs. Importantly, codepletion of CSF1R+ TAMs and Foxp3+ Treg cells resulted in an increased influx of CD8+ T cells, augmentation of their function, and a synergistic reduction in tumor growth. Further, inhibition of Treg cell activity either through systemic pharmacological blockade of PI3Kδ, or its genetic inactivation within Foxp3+ Treg cells, sensitized previously unresponsive solid tumors to CSF1R+ TAM depletion and enhanced the effect of CSF1R blockade. These findings identify CSF1R+ TAMs and PI3Kδ-driven Foxp3+ Treg cells as the dominant compensatory cellular components of the immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment, with implications for the design of combinatorial immunotherapies.
The PI3K signaling pathway regulates cell growth and movement and is heavily mutated in cancer. Class I PI3Ks synthesize the lipid messenger PI(3,4,5)P3. PI(3,4,5)P3 can be dephosphorylated by 3- or 5-phosphatases, the latter producing PI(3,4)P2. The PTEN tumor suppressor is thought to function primarily as a PI(3,4,5)P3 3-phosphatase, limiting activation of this pathway. Here we show that PTEN also functions as a PI(3,4)P2 3-phosphatase, both in vitro and in vivo. PTEN is a major PI(3,4)P2 phosphatase in Mcf10a cytosol, and loss of PTEN and INPP4B, a known PI(3,4)P2 4-phosphatase, leads to synergistic accumulation of PI(3,4)P2, which correlated with increased invadopodia in epidermal growth factor (EGF)-stimulated cells. PTEN deletion increased PI(3,4)P2 levels in a mouse model of prostate cancer, and it inversely correlated with PI(3,4)P2 levels across several EGF-stimulated prostate and breast cancer lines. These results point to a role for PI(3,4)P2 in the phenotype caused by loss-of-function mutations or deletions in PTEN.