Epigenomics. 2020 Nov 10. doi: 10.2217/epi-2020-0267. Online ahead of print.
Aim: To elucidate the epigenetic alterations behind the upregulation of immune checkpoints and T cell exhaustion markers in colorectal cancer (CRC) patients. Materials & methods: mRNA expressions of different immune checkpoint/exhaustion markers were analyzed by quantitative real-time reverse transcriptase PCR and epigenetic investigations were performed using bisulfite sequencing and chromatin immunoprecipitation quantitative PCR. Results: mRNA expressions of PD-1, TIM-3, CTLA-4, PD-L1 and TOX2 were significantly upregulated in CD4+ and CD8+ tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes and bulk CRC tumor tissues. Histone 3 lysine 9 trimethylation was downregulated and histone 3 lysine 4 trimethylation was upregulated in PD-L1 and TOX2 promoters in tumor tissues, suggesting that PD-L1 and TOX2 upregulation in CRC tumors could be mediated by activating histone 3 lysine 4 trimethylation. Conclusion: Epigenetic modifications in promoters of immune checkpoint and T cell exhaustion genes could induce their upregulation, and potentially implicate the use of epigenetic modifiers to enhance antitumor immunity in CRC patients.