Conventional type 1 dendritic cells (cDC1s) are critical for anti-tumor immunity. They acquire antigens from dying tumor cells and cross-present them to CD8 + T cells, promoting the expansion of tumor-specific cytotoxic T cells. However, the signaling pathways that govern the anti-tumor functions of cDC1s are poorly understood. We mapped the molecular pathways regulating intra-tumoral cDC1 maturation using single cell RNA sequencing. We identified NF-κB and IFN pathways as being highly enriched in a subset of functionally mature cDC1s. The specific targeting of NF-κB or IFN pathways in cDC1s prevented the recruitment and activation of CD8 + T cells and the control of tumor growth. We identified an NF-κB-dependent IFNγ-regulated gene network in cDC1s, including cytokines and chemokines specialized in the recruitment and activation of cytotoxic T cells. We used single cell transcriptomes to map the trajectory of intra-tumoral cDC1 maturation which revealed the dynamic reprogramming of tumor-infiltrating cDC1s by NF-κB and IFN signaling pathways. This maturation process was perturbed by specific inactivation of either NF-κB or IRF1 in cDC1s, resulting in impaired expression of IFN-γ-responsive genes and consequently a failure to efficiently recruit and activate anti-tumoral CD8 + T cells. Finally, we demonstrate the relevance of these findings to cancer patients, showing that activation of the NF-κB/IRF1 axis in association with cDC1s is linked with improved clinical outcome. The NF-κB/IRF1 axis in cDC1s may therefore represent an important focal point for the development new diagnostic and therapeutic approaches to improve cancer immunotherapy.
One Sentence Summary
NF-κB and IRF1 coordinate intra-tumoral cDC1 maturation and control of immunogenic tumor growth.