Myeloid cells represent one of the most abundant immune cell types in solid tumors that impede myeloid phagocytosis by triggering “don't eat me” and “don't find me” signals. Recent literature demonstrates that C-type lectin receptors (CLRs) are powerful pattern recognition receptors shaping immune cell-mediated tissue damage by positively or negatively regulating myeloid cell functions and hence tumor elimination or evasion. We previously reported that the orphan CLR CLEC-1 expressed by dendritic cells (DCs) and macrophages (MPs) is enhanced by TGFβ and tempers downstream T cells responses. Furthermore, we observed that CLEC-1 is highly expressed by myeloid cells purified from the human tumor microenvironment, in particular, tumor-associated MPs. We evaluated whether CLEC-1 could also be a receptor for DAMPs and influences phagocytosis. We found that CLEC-1 fusion protein binds specifically to secondary necrotic healthy or tumor cells induced by chemotherapy, radiation (UV, X-ray), or culture stress conditions suggesting that ligands of CLEC-1 are generated upon stress and programmed cell death. Importantly, further to promising results in KO CLEC-1 mice, we observed in vivo that CLEC-1 deficient mice, in contrast to wild-type littermates, eradicate MC38 colorectal tumors in combination with cytotoxic and immunogenic chemotherapy. Importantly, disruption of CLEC-1 signaling by Fc-CLEC-1 fusion protein also promotes tumor eradication. We then generated and identified different anti-human CLEC-1 antagonist monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) with the capacity to block CLEC-1/CLEC-1L interaction. We developed innovative antagonist CLEC-1 mAbs which, in contrast to non-antagonist CLEC-1 control mAb, increase the phagocytosis of CLEC-1L-positive human tumor cells by human TGFβ-polarized DCs or MPs. Indeed, TGFβ-polarized DCs phagocytose more efficiently a NSCLC cell line (A549) as well as Rituximab (anti-CD20 mAb)-opsonized Burkitt lymphoma cells (Raji) when CLEC-1 is antagonized by Abs. Similarly, macrophages significantly more efficiently engulfed human tumors in the presence of CLEC-1 antagonist Abs, in particular when tumor cells were opsonized such as Rituximab-opsonized Raji cells, Cetuximab opsonized colon carcinoma cells (DLD-1; EGFR+) or Trastuzumab opsonized mammary carcinoma cells (SK-BR-3; Her2+). Importantly, we observed both in vitro and in vivo that DCs from Clec1a deficient mice cross-present more efficiently dead cell-associated antigens to CD8+ T cells (OT-1). We generated hCLEC-1 knock-in mice and in vivo preclinical evaluation of CLEC-1 blocking mAbs is ongoing. Altogether, these data illustrate that CLEC-1 broadly notably inhibits tumor-cell phagocytosis and synergized with tumor-targeted cytotoxic monoclonal antibodies in both solid and hematological tumors, and hampers DC antigen cross-presentation.

Citation Format: Vanessa Gauttier, Sabrina Pengam, Marion Drouin, Javier Saenz, Bérangère Evrard, Kevin Biteau, Caroline Mary, Géraldine Teppaz, Ariane Desselle, Virginie Thépénier, Emmanuelle Wilhelm, Elise Chiffoleau, Nicolas Poirier. CLEC-1 is a novel myeloid immune checkpoint for cancer immunotherapy limiting tumor cells phagocytosis and tumor antigen cross-presentation [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting 2021; 2021 Apr 10-15 and May 17-21. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2021;81(13_Suppl):Abstract nr 1636.