Semaphorin–plexin signaling plays a major role in the tumor microenvironment (TME). In particular, Semaphorin 4D (SEMA4D) has been shown to promote tumor growth and metastasis; however, the role of its high-affinity receptor Plexin-B1 (PLXNB1), which is expressed in the TME, is poorly understood. In this study, we directly targeted PLXNB1 in the TME of triple-negative murine breast carcinoma to elucidate its relevance in cancer progression. We found that primary tumor growth and metastatic dissemination were strongly reduced in PLXNB1-deficient mice, which showed longer survival. PLXNB1 loss in the TME induced a switch in the polarization of tumor-associated macrophages (TAM) toward a pro-inflammatory M1 phenotype and enhanced the infiltration of CD8+ T lymphocytes both in primary tumors and in distant metastases. Moreover, PLXNB1 deficiency promoted a shift in the Th1/Th2 balance of the T-cell population and an antitumor gene signature, with the upregulation of Icos, Perforin-1, Stat3, and Ccl5 in tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs). We thus tested the translational relevance of TME reprogramming driven by PLXNB1 inactivation for responsiveness to immunotherapy. Indeed, in the absence of PLXNB1, the efficacy of anti-PD-1 blockade was strongly enhanced, efficiently reducing tumor growth and distant metastasis. Consistent with this, pharmacological PLXNB1 blockade by systemic treatment with a specific inhibitor significantly hampered breast cancer growth and enhanced the antitumor activity of the anti-PD-1 treatment in a preclinical model. Altogether, these data indicate that PLXNB1 signaling controls the antitumor immune response in the TME and highlight this receptor as a promising immune therapeutic target for metastatic breast cancers.

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