SuV39H1 represses the expression of cytotoxic T-lymphocyte effector genes to promote colon tumor immune evasion

Chunwan Lu, Dafeng Yang, John D. Klement, Il Kyu Oh, Natasha M. Savage, Jennifer L. Waller, Aaron H. Colby, Mark W. Grinstaff, Nicholas H. Oberlies, Cedric J. Pearce, Zhiliang Xie, Samuel K. Kulp, Christopher C. Coss, Mitch A. Phelps, Thomas Albers, Iryna O. Lebedyeva, Kebin Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Despite the presence of CTLs in the tumor microenvironment, the majority of immunogenic human colon cancer does not respond to immune checkpoint inhibitor immunotherapy, and microsatellite instable (MSI) tumors are not naturally eliminated. The molecular mechanism underlying the inactivity of tumor-infiltrating CTLs is unknown. We report here that CTLs were present in both MSI and microsatellite stable colon tumors. The expression of the H3K9me3-specific histone methyltransferase SUV39H1 was significantly elevated in human colon carcinoma compared with normal colon tissues. Using a mouse colon carcinoma model, we further determined that tumor-infiltrating CTLs in the colon tumor microenvironment have high expression of SUV39H1. To target SUV39H1 in the tumor microenvironment, a virtual chemical library was screened on the basis of the SET (suppressor of variegation 3–9, enhancer of zeste and trithorax) domain structure of the human SUV39H1 protein. Functional enzymatic activity assays identified a small molecule that inhibits SUV39H1 enzymatic activity. On the basis of the structure of this small molecule, we modified it and chemically synthesized a small molecule, termed F5446, which has an EC 50 of 0.496 mmol/L for SUV39H1 enzymatic activity. H3K9me3 was enriched in the promoters of GZMB, PRF1, FASLG, and IFNG in quiescent T cells. F5446 inhibited H3K9me3, thereby upregulating expression of these effectors in tumor-infiltrating CTLs and suppressing colon carcinoma growth in a CD8 þ CTL-dependent manner in vivo. Our data indicate that SUV39H1 represses CTL effector gene expression and, in doing so, confers colon cancer immune escape.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)414-427
Number of pages14
JournalCancer Immunology Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Cancer Research


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