Reversal of viral and epigenetic HLA class I repression in Merkel cell carcinoma

Patrick C. Lee, Susan Klaeger, Phuong M. Le, Keegan Korthauer, Jingwei Cheng, Varsha Ananthapadmanabhan, Thomas C. Frost, Jonathan D. Stevens, Alan Y.L. Wong, J. Bryan Iorgulescu, Anna Y. Tarren, Vipheaviny A. Chea, Isabel P. Carulli, Camilla K. Lemvigh, Christina B. Pedersen, Ashley K. Gartin, Siranush Sarkizova, Kyle T. Wright, Letitia W. Li, Jason NomburgShuqiang Li, Teddy Huang, Xiaoxi Liu, Lucas Pomerance, Laura M. Doherty, Annie M. Apffel, Luke J. Wallace, Suzanna Rachimi, Kristen D. Felt, Jacquelyn O. Wolff, Elizabeth Witten, Wandi Zhang, Donna Neuberg, William J. Lane, Guanglan Zhang, Lars R. Olsen, Manisha Thakuria, Scott J. Rodig, Karl R. Clauser, Gabriel J. Starrett, John G. Doench, Sara J. Buhrlage, Steven A. Carr, James A. DeCaprio, Catherine J. Wu*, Derin B. Keskin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Cancers avoid immune surveillance through an array of mechanisms, including perturbation of HLA class I antigen presentation. Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is an aggressive, HLA-I–low, neuroendocrine carcinoma of the skin often caused by the Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCPyV). Through the characterization of 11 newly generated MCC patient-derived cell lines, we identified transcriptional suppression of several class I antigen presentation genes. To systematically identify regulators of HLA-I loss in MCC, we performed parallel, genome-scale, gain- and loss-of-function screens in a patient-derived MCPyV-positive cell line and identified MYCL and the non-canonical Polycomb repressive complex 1.1 (PRC1.1) as HLA-I repressors. We observed physical interaction of MYCL with the MCPyV small T viral antigen, supporting a mechanism of virally mediated HLA-I suppression. We further identify the PRC1.1 component USP7 as a pharmacologic target to restore HLA-I expression in MCC.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere151666
JournalJournal of Clinical Investigation
Issue number13
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 2022


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