The SOX9 transcription factor ensures proper tissue development and homeostasis and has been implicated in promoting tumor progression. However, the role of SOX9 as a driver of lung adenocarcinoma (LUAD), or any cancer, remains unclear. Using CRISPR/Cas9 and Cre-LoxP gene knockout approaches in the Kras G12D-driven mouse LUAD model, we found that loss of Sox9 significantly reduces lung tumor development, burden and progression, contributing to significantly longer overall survival. SOX9 consistently drove organoid growth in vitro, but SOX9-promoted tumor growth was significantly attenuated in immunocompromised mice compared to syngeneic mice. We demonstrate that SOX9 suppresses immune cell infiltration and functionally suppresses tumor associated CD8+ T, natural killer and dendritic cells. These data were validated by flow cytometry, gene expression, RT-qPCR, and immunohistochemistry analyses in Kras G12D-driven murine LUAD, then confirmed by interrogating bulk and single-cell gene expression repertoires and immunohistochemistry in human LUAD. Notably, SOX9 significantly elevates collagen-related gene expression and substantially increases collagen fibers. We propose that SOX9 increases tumor stiffness and inhibits tumor-infiltrating dendritic cells, thereby suppressing CD8+ T cell and NK cell infiltration and activity. Thus, SOX9 drives Kras G12D-driven lung tumor progression and inhibits anti-tumor immunity at least partly by modulating the tumor microenvironment.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Biology
- Cancer Research