Background: Dendritic cells (DCs) are professional antigen presenting cells that initiate specific immune responses against tumor cells. Transcription factor RBP-J-mediated Notch signaling regulates DC genesis, but whether this pathway regulates DC function in anti-tumor immunity remains unclear. In the present work we attempted to identify the role of Notch signaling in DC-mediated anti-tumor immune response.
Results: When DCs were co-inoculated together with tumor cells, while the control DCs repressed tumor growth, the RBP-J deficient DCs had lost tumor repression activity. This was most likely due to that DCs with the conditionally ablated RBP-J were unable to evoke anti-tumor immune responses in the solid tumors. Indeed, tumors containing the RBP-J deficient DCs had fewer infiltrating T-cells, B-cells and NK-cells. Similarly, the draining lymph nodes of the tumors with RBP-J-/- DCs were smaller in size, and contained fewer cells of the T, B and NK lineages, as compared with the controls. At the molecular level, the RBP-J deficient DCs expressed lower MHC II, CD80, CD86, and CCR7, resulting in inefficient DC migration and T-cell activation in vitro and in vivo. T-cells stimulated by the RBP-J deficient DCs did not possess efficient cytotoxicity against tumor cells, in contrast to the control DCs.
Conclusion: The RBP-J-mediated Notch signaling is essential for DC-dependent anti-tumor immune responses. The deficiency of RBP-J impairs the DC-based anti-tumor immunity through affecting series of processes including maturation, migration, antigen presentation and T-cell activation. The Notch signaling pathway might be a target for the establishment of the DC-based anti-tumor immunotherapies.