Osteosarcoma is an aggressive bone malignancy with a poor prognosis. One putative proto-oncogene in osteosarcoma is SKP2, encoding a substrate recognition factor of the SCF E3 ubiquitin ligase. We previously demonstrated that Skp2 knockout in murine osteosarcoma improved survival and delayed tumorigenesis. Here, we performed RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) on tumors from a transgenic osteosarcoma mouse model with conditional Trp53 and Rb1 knockouts in the osteoblast lineage (“DKO”: Osx1-Cre;Rb1lox/lox;p53lox/lox) and a triple-knockout model with additional Skp2 germline knockout (“TKO”: Osx1-Cre;Rb1lox/lox;p53lox/lox;Skp2−/−), followed by qPCR and immunohistochemistry validation. To investigate the clinical implications of our results, we analyzed a human osteosarcoma patient cohort (“NCI-TARGET OS”) with RNA-seq and clinical data. We found large differences in gene expression after SKP2 knockout. Surprisingly, we observed increased expression of genes related to immune microenvironment infiltration in TKO tumors, especially the signature genes for macrophages and to a lesser extent, T cells, B cells, and vascular cells. We also uncovered a set of relevant transcription factors that may mediate these changes. In osteosarcoma patient cohorts, high expression of genes upregulated in TKO was correlated with favorable overall survival, which was largely explained by the macrophage gene signatures. This relationship was further supported by our finding that SKP2 expression was negatively correlated with macrophage infiltration in the NCI-TARGET osteosarcoma and the TCGA Sarcoma cohorts. Overall, our findings indicate that SKP2 may mediate immune exclusion from the osteosarcoma tumor microenvironment, suggesting that SKP2 modulation in osteosarcoma may induce antitumor immune activation.

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