Alteration of the tumor microenvironment by pharmacological inhibition of EZH2 in hepatocellular carcinoma

Na Qiang, Junjie Ao, Masato Nakamura, Tetsuhiro Chiba, Yuko Kusakabe, Tatsuya Kaneko, Akane Kurosugi, Tadayoshi Kogure, Yaojia Ma, Jiaqi Zhang, Keita Ogawa, Motoyasu Kan, Terunao Iwanaga, Takafumi Sakuma, Kengo Kanayama, Hiroaki Kanzaki, Ryuta Kojima, Ryo Nakagawa, Takayuki Kondo, Shingo NakamotoRyosuke Muroyama, Jun Kato, Naoya Mimura, Anqi Ma, Jian Jin, Naoya Kato

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2 Scopus citations


Enhancer of zeste homolog 2 (EZH2), a core component of polycomb repressive component 2 is overexpressed in a variety of cancers and recognized as a therapeutic target molecule. However, EZH2 possesses immunomodulatory functions in the tumor microenvironment (TME). The impact of EZH2 on TME of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) using immunocompetent mouse model was evaluated in the present study. UNC1999, an EZH2 inhibitor, impaired growth of the murine HCC cells (H22 cells) and induced apoptosis in a dose-dependent manner. Although UNC1999 significantly inhibited the growth of H22 cells-derived and Hepa1-6 cells-derived tumors in nonobese diabetic/severe combined immunodeficiency mice, its antitumor effect was diminished in allogenic BALB/c and C57BL/6 mice. Flow cytometric analyses of TME cells in BALB/c mice demonstrated a significant decrease in the number of interferon‑γ+ CD8+ T cells and regulatory T cells and a significant increase in the number of myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs). Administration of Gr-1 neutralizing antibody concomitant with UNC1999 restored antitumor effect accompanied by an increase in the number of CD8+ T cells followed by a decrease in the number of MDSCs. Chemokine antibody array demonstrated an enhanced expression of chemokines responsible for MDSCs recruitment such as C5a, CCL8, and CCL9. In conclusion, the study results demonstrated that EZH2 inhibitor contributed to attenuation of tumor immunity caused by TME arrangement. Combination therapy with EZH2 inhibitors and agents that reduce MDSCs might represent a novel therapeutic strategy for HCC.

Original languageEnglish
Article number110068
JournalInternational Immunopharmacology
StatePublished - May 2023


  • Chemokines
  • Enhancer of zeste homolog 2
  • Hepatocellular carcinoma
  • Myeloid-derived suppressor cells
  • Tumor microenvironment
  • UNC1999


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