IFN-γ – dependent tumor-antigen cross-presentation by lymphatic endothelial cells
Tumor-associated lymphatic vessels promote metastasis and regulate antitumor immune responses. Here, we assessed the impact of cytotoxic T cells on the local lymphatic vasculature and concomitant tumor dissemination during an antitumor response. Interferon-γ (IFN-γ) released by effector T cells enhanced the expression of immunosuppressive markers by tumor-associated lymphatic endothelial cells (LECs). However, at higher effector T cell densities within the tumor, T cell – based immunotherapies induced LEC apoptosis and decreased tumor lymphatic vessel density. As a consequence, lymphatic flow was impaired, and lymph node metastasis was reduced. Mechanistically, T cell – mediated tumor cell death induced the release of tumor antigens and cross-presentation by tumor LECs, resulting in antigen-specific LEC killing by T cells. When LECs lacked the IFN-γ receptor expression, LEC killing was abrogated, indicating that IFN-γ is indispensable for reducing tumor-associated lymphatic vessel density and drainage. This study provides insight into how cytotoxic T cells modulate tumor lymphatic vessels and may help to improve immunotherapeutic protocols.