Type i interferon suppresses tumor growth through activating the STAT3-granzyme B pathway in tumor-infiltrating cytotoxic T lymphocytes

Chunwan Lu, John D. Klement, Mohammed L. Ibrahim, Wei Xiao, Priscilla S. Redd, Asha Nayak, Gang Zhou, Kebin Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Background: Type I interferons (IFN-I) have recently emerged as key regulators of tumor response to chemotherapy and immunotherapy. However, IFN-I function in cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) in the tumor microenvironment is largely unknown. Methods: Tumor tissues and CTLs of human colorectal cancer patients were analyzed for interferon (alpha and beta) receptor 1 (IFNAR1) expression. IFNAR1 knock out (IFNAR-KO), mixed wild type (WT) and IFNAR1-KO bone marrow chimera mice, and mice with IFNAR1 deficiency only in T cells (IFNAR1-TKO) were used to determine IFN-I function in T cells in tumor suppression. IFN-I target genes in tumor-infiltrating and antigen-specific CTLs were identified and functionally analyzed. Results: IFNAR1 expression level is significantly lower in human colorectal carcinoma tissue than in normal colon tissue. IFNAR1 protein is also significantly lower on CTLs from colorectal cancer patients than those from healthy donors. Although IFNAR1-KO mice exhibited increased susceptibility to methylcholanthrene-induced sarcoma, IFNAR1-sufficient tumors also grow significantly faster in IFNAR1-KO mice and in mice with IFNAR1 deficiency only in T cells (IFNAR1-TKO), suggesting that IFN-I functions in T cells to enhance host cancer immunosurveillance. Strikingly, tumor-infiltrating CTL levels are similar between tumor-bearing WT and IFNAR1-KO mice. Competitive reconstitution of mixed WT and IFNAR1-KO bone marrow chimera mice further determined that IFNAR1-deficient naïve CTLs exhibit no deficiency in response to vaccination to generate antigen-specific CTLs as compared to WT CTLs. Gene expression profiling determined that Gzmb expression is down-regulated in tumor-infiltrating CTLs of IFNAR1-KO mice as compared to WT mice, and in antigen-specific IFNAR1-KO CTLs as compared to WT CTLs in vivo. Mechanistically, we determined that IFN-I activates STAT3 that binds to the Gzmb promoter to activate Gzmb transcription in CTLs. Conclusion: IFN-I induces STAT3 activation to activate Gzmb expression to enhance CTL effector function to suppress tumor development. Human colorectal carcinoma may use down-regulation of IFNAR1 on CTLs to suppress CTL effector function to evade host cancer immunosurveillance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number157
JournalJournal for ImmunoTherapy of Cancer
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 22 2019


  • CTLs
  • Colon Cancer
  • Granzyme B
  • STAT3
  • Type I interferon

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Oncology
  • Pharmacology
  • Cancer Research


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