Dormant tumor cells interact with memory CD8+ T cells in RET transgenic mouse melanoma model.Cancer Lett 2020; 474:74-81CL
Melanoma is an aggressive form of skin-cancer. Melanoma cells are characterized by their plasticity, resulting in therapy resistance. Using RET transgenic mouse melanoma model, we characterized dormant tumor cells accumulated in the bone marrow (BM) and investigated their interaction with effector memory CD8+ T cells. We found that cells expressing melanoma-associated antigen tyrosinase related protein (TRP)-2 and stemness marker CD133 represented less than 1.5% of all melanoma cells in primary skin lesions and metastatic lymph nodes. The majority of these cells were negative for the proliferation marker Ki67. In the BM, CD133+TRP-2+ melanoma cells displayed an aberrant expression of p16, p27, Ki67 and PCNA proteins, suggesting their dormant phenotype. Moreover, these cells were characterized by an elevated expression of various molecules characterized stemness, metastatic, angiogenic and immunosuppressive properties such as CD271, CD34, HIF-1α, CXCR3, CXCR4, VEGR2, PD-L1, CTLA-4, CD39 and CCR4 as compared to their CD133- counterparts. Disseminated BM dormant TRP-2+ tumor cells were found to be co-localized with memory CD8+ T cells. Our data suggest that these dormant melanoma cells in the BM could play an important role in the maintenance of memory T cells in the BM.