One major characteristic of skin-related cancers is the loss of skin-resident dendritic cell populations. In the tg(Grm1)EPv mouse model, ectopic expression of the metabotropic glutamate receptor-1 in melanocytes leads to a highly proliferative and antiapoptotic phenotype, resulting in melanoma formation within the dermis. The slow progression of these tumors allows for the in depth analysis of the immune infiltrate in growing tumors. We here show that total DCs (CD11c+ cells) are gradually lost as the tumor progresses. Mainly the dermal CD11b+ DCs are affected, whereas epidermal Langerhans cells remain unchanged. We hypothesized that extrinsic cell death of the DCs may be induced within the growing tumor. Indeed, the tumor tissue upregulated the expression of Fas ligand (FasL) that can induce extrinsic apoptosis in immature DCs that express Fas (CD95). Fas-mediated apoptosis depends on the activation of caspase-8 and mice in which the autoproteolytic cleavage site D387 is mutated to alanine (casp8D387A/casp8D387A) show strong resistance to Fas-mediated death. We compared the apoptosis induction in the different DC subsets in casp8WT/casp8WT and in casp8D387A/casp8D387A upon intradermal administration of an agonistic anti-CD95 antibody and we found that, indeed, CD11b+ DCs in WT mice are susceptible to apoptosis via CD95. In order to retrieve the intratumoral DCs, we treated tg(Grm1)EPv mice carrying tumor lesions with Flt3L and the percentages of the CD11b+ subset could be restored back to the levels of tumor-free mice. At the same time, T-cells from both the tumor and the tumor-draining lymph node were able to produce more cytotoxic cytokines. Our data thus indicate that the loss of DCs in melanoma depends on induction of apoptosis within the tumor; rescue of skin DCs may be a promising strategy in order to enhance the efficacy of existing immunotherapeutic strategies against skin-related cancers.

Citation Format: Anastasia Prokopi, Christoph H. Tripp, Bart Tummers, Kerstin Komenda, Katharina Hutter, Giuseppe Cappellano, Lydia Bellmann, Mirjana Efremova, Zlatko Trajanoski, Suzie Chen, Bjorn E. Clausen, Douglas R. Green, Patrizia Stoitzner. Rescue of lost skin dendritic cells in melanoma is key for the resuscitation of antitumor T-cell responses [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the Fourth CRI-CIMT-EATI-AACR International Cancer Immunotherapy Conference: Translating Science into Survival; Sept 30-Oct 3, 2018; New York, NY. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Immunol Res 2019;7(2 Suppl):Abstract nr A102.