Asah2 Represses the p53-Hmox1 Axis to Protect Myeloid-Derived Suppressor Cells from Ferroptosis

Huabin Zhu, John D. Klement, Chunwan Lu, Priscilla S. Redd, Dafeng Yang, Alyssa D. Smith, Dakota B. Poschel, Juan Zou, X. Ding Liu, Peng George Wang, David Ostrov, Nicolas Coant, Yusuf A. Hannun, Aaron H. Colby, Mark W. Grinstaff, Kebin Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs) are immune suppressive cells that massively accumulate under pathological conditions to suppress T cell immune response. Dysregulated cell death contributes to MDSC accumulation, but the molecular mechanism underlying this cell death dysregulation is not fully understood. In this study, we report that neutral ceramidase (N-acylsphingosine amidohydrolase [ASAH2]) is highly expressed in tumor-infiltrating MDSCs in colon carcinoma and acts as an MDSC survival factor. To target ASAH2, we performed molecular docking based on human ASAH2 protein structure. Enzymatic inhibition analysis of identified hits determined NC06 as an ASAH2 inhibitor. Chemical and nuclear magnetic resonance analysis determined NC06 as 7-chloro-2-(3-chloroanilino)pyrano[3,4-e][1,3]oxazine-4,5-dione. NC06 inhibits ceramidase activity with an IC50 of 10.16-25.91 mM for human ASAH2 and 18.6-30.2 mM for mouse Asah2 proteins. NC06 induces MDSC death in a dosedependent manner, and inhibition of ferroptosis decreased NC06-induced MDSC death. NC06 increases glutathione synthesis and decreases lipid reactive oxygen species to suppress ferroptosis in MDSCs. Gene expression profiling identified the p53 pathway as the Asah2 target inMDSCs. Inhibition of Asah2 increased p53 protein stability to upregulate Hmox1 expression to suppress lipid reactive oxygen species production to suppress ferroptosis inMDSCs. NC06 therapy increases MDSC death and reduces MDSC accumulation in tumor-bearing mice, resulting in increased activation of tumor-infiltrating CTLs and suppression of tumor growth in vivo. Our data indicate that ASAH2 protects MDSCs from ferroptosis through destabilizing p53 protein to suppress the p53 pathway inMDSCs in the tumor microenvironment. Targeting ASAH2 with NC06 to induce MDSC ferroptosis is potentially an effective therapy to suppress MDSC accumulation in cancer immunotherapy. The Journal of Immunology, 2021, 206: 1395-1404.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1395-1404
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 15 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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