Neutrophil extracellular traps (NET), formed by the extracellular release of decondensed chromatin and granules, have been shown to promote tumor progression and metastasis. Tumor-associated neutrophils in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) are prone to NET formation, highlighting the need for a more comprehensive understanding of the mechanisms of action of NETs in liver cancer. Here, we showed that DNA of NETs (NET-DNA) binds transmembrane and coiled-coil domains 6 (TMCO6) on CD8+ T cells to impair antitumor immunity and thereby promote HCC progression. TGFβ1 induced NET formation, which recruited CD8+ T cells. Binding to NET-DNA inhibited CD8+ T cells function while increasing apoptosis and TGFβ1 secretion, forming a positive feedback loop to further stimulate NET formation and immunosuppression. Mechanistically, the N-terminus of TMCO6 interacted with NET-DNA and suppressed T-cell receptor signaling and NFκB p65 nuclear translocation. Blocking NET formation by inhibiting PAD4 induced potent antitumor effects in wild-type mice but not TMCO6−/− mice. In clinical samples, CD8+ T cells expressing TMCO6 had an exhausted phenotype. TGFβ1 signaling inhibition or TMCO6 deficiency combined with anti-PD-1 abolished NET-driven HCC progression in vivo. Collectively, this study unveils the role of NET-DNA in impairing CD8+ T-cell immunity by binding TMCO6 and identifies targeting this axis as an immunotherapeutic strategy for blocking HCC progression.


TMCO6 is a receptor for DNA of NETs that mediates CD8+ T-cell dysfunction in HCC, indicating that the NET-TMCO6 axis is a promising target for overcoming immunosuppression in liver cancer.

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