17 January 2019
In the tumor microenvironment (TME) ATP and its receptor P2X7 exert a pivotal influence on cancer growth and tumor–host interactions. Here we analyzed the different effect of P2X7 genetic deficiency versus its antagonism on response against P2X7-expressing implanted tumors. We focused on immune cell expression of ATP degrading enzymes CD39 and CD73 and in vivo measured TME’s ATP. The immune infiltrate of tumors growing in P2X7 null mice shows a decrease in CD8 + cells and an increased number of Tregs, overexpressing the fitness markers OX40, PD-1, and CD73. A similar Treg phenotype is also present in the spleen of tumor-bearing P2X7 null mice and it is paralleled by a decrease in proinflammatory cytokines and an increase in TGF-β. Differently, systemic administration of the P2X7 blocker A740003 in wild-type mice left unaltered the number of tumor-infiltrating CD8 + and Treg lymphocytes but increased CD4 + effector cells and decreased their expression of CD39 and CD73. P2X7 blockade did not affect spleen immune cell composition or ectonucleotidase expression but increased circulating INF-γ. Augmented CD73 in P2X7 null mice was mirrored by a decrease in TME ATP concentration and nucleotide reduced secretion from immune cells. On the contrary, TME ATP levels remained unaltered upon P2X7 antagonism, owing to release of ATP from cancerous cells and diminished ectonucleotidase expression by CD4 + and dendritic cells. These data point at P2X7 receptor as a key determinant of TME composition due to its combined action on immune cell infiltrate, ectonucleotidases, and ATP release.