IDO, PTEN-expressing Tregs and control of antigen-presentation in the murine tumor microenvironment

David H. Munn, Madhav D. Sharma, Theodore S. Johnson, Paulo Rodriguez

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


The tumor microenvironment is profoundly immunosuppressive. This creates a major barrier for attempts to combine immunotherapy with conventional chemotherapy or radiation, because the tumor antigens released by these cytotoxic agents are not cross-presented in an immunogenic fashion. In this Focused Research Review, we focus on mouse preclinical studies exploring the role of immunosuppressive Tregs expressing the PTEN lipid phosphatase, and the links between PTEN+ Tregs and the immunoregulatory enzyme indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase (IDO). IDO has received attention because it can be expressed by a variety of human tumor types in vivo, but IDO can also be induced in host immune cells of both humans and mice in response to inflammation, infection or dying (apoptotic) cells. Mechanistically, IDO and PTEN+ Tregs are closely connected, with IDO causing activation of the PTEN pathway in Tregs. Genetic ablation or pharmacologic inhibition of PTEN in mouse Tregs destabilizes their suppressive phenotype, and this prevents transplantable and autochthonous tumors from creating their normal immunosuppressive microenvironment. Genetic ablation of either IDO or PTEN+ Tregs in mice results in a fundamental defect in the ability to maintain tolerance to antigens associated with apoptotic cells, including dying tumor cells. Consistent with this, pharmacologic inhibitors of either pathway show synergy when combined with cytotoxic agents such as chemotherapy or radiation. Thus, we propose that IDO and PTEN+ Tregs represent closely linked checkpoints that can influence the choice between immune activation versus tolerance to dying tumor cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1049-1058
Number of pages10
JournalCancer Immunology, Immunotherapy
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Chemotherapy
  • Indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase
  • PTEN
  • Regulatory T cells
  • Regulatory myeloid suppressor cells
  • Tolerance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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