Rong Xu1, Young‑Joo Lee1, Chang‑Hyeon Kim1, Ga‑Hong Min1, Yeo‑Bin Kim1, Jung‑Won Park1, Dae‑Hoon Kim1, Jung‑Hyun Kim2 and Hyungshin Yim1*
1Department of Pharmacy, College of Pharmacy, Institute of Pharmaceutical Science and Technology, Hanyang University, Ansan, Gyeonggi‑Do 15588, Republic of Korea.
2Division of Intractable Diseases Research, Department of Chronic Diseases Convergence Research, Korea National Institute of Health, Cheongju, Chungcheongbuk‑Do 28160, Republic of Korea.
*Correspondence: Hyungshin Yim
Background: Understanding the mechanism behind immune cell plasticity in cancer metastasis is crucial for identifying key regulators. Previously we found that mitotic factors regulate epithelial-mesenchymal transition, but how these factors convert to metastatic players in the tumor microenvironment (TME) is not fully understood.
Methods: The clinical importance of mitotic factors was analyzed by heatmap analysis, a KM plot, and immunohistochemistry in lung adenocarcinoma (LUAD) patients. Immunoprecipitation, LC-MS/MS, kinase assay, and site-directed mutagenesis were performed for the interaction and phosphorylation. A tail-vein injection mouse model, Transwell-based 3D culture, microarray analysis, coculture with monocytes, and chromatin immunoprecipitation assays were used to elucidate the function of phosphorylated FoxM1 in metastasis of TME.
Results: The phosphorylated FoxM1 at Ser25 by PLK1 acquires the reprogramming ability to stimulate the invasive traits in cancer and influence immune cell plasticity. This invasive form of p-FoxM1 upregulates the expression of IL1A/1B, VEGFA, and IL6 by direct activation, recruiting monocytes and promoting the polarization of M2d-like tumor-associated macrophages (TAMs). Upregulation of PD-L1 in LUAD having phosphomimetic FoxM1 facilitates immune evasion. In invasive LUAD with phosphomimetic FoxM1, IFITM1 is the most highly expressed through the activation of the STING-TBK1-IRF3 signaling, which enhances FoxM1-mediated signaling. Clinically, higher expression of FOXM1, PLK1, and IFITM1 is inversely correlated with the survival rate of advanced LUAD patients, providing a promising therapeutic strategy for the treatment of LUAD.
Conclusion: FoxM1-based therapy would be a potential therapeutic strategy for LUAD to reduce TAM polarization, immune escape, and metastasis, since FoxM1 functions as a genetic reprogramming factor reinforcing LUAD malignancy in the TME.