Targeting stromal cell sialylation reverses T cell-mediated immunosuppression in the tumor microenvironment

Hannah Egan, Oliver Treacy, Kevin Lynch, Niamh A Leonard, Grace O'Malley, Eileen Reidy, Aoise O'Neill, Shania M Corry, Kim De Veirman, Karin Vanderkerken, Laurence J Egan, Thomas Ritter, Aisling M Hogan, Keara Redmond, Li Peng, Jenny Che, Wayne Gatlin, Pushpa Jayaraman, Margaret Sheehan, Aoife CanneySean O Hynes, Emma M Kerr, Philip D Dunne, Michael E O'Dwyer, Aideen E Ryan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Immunosuppressive tumor microenvironments (TMEs) reduce the effectiveness of immune responses in cancer. Mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs), precursors to cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs), promote tumor progression by enhancing immune cell suppression in colorectal cancer (CRC). Hyper-sialylation of glycans promotes immune evasion in cancer through binding of sialic acids to their receptors, Siglecs, expressed on immune cells, which results in inhibition of effector functions. The role of sialylation in shaping MSC/CAF immunosuppression in the TME is not well characterized. In this study, we show that tumor-conditioned stromal cells have increased sialyltransferase expression, α2,3/6-linked sialic acid, and Siglec ligands. Tumor-conditioned stromal cells and CAFs induce exhausted immunomodulatory CD8 PD1 and CD8 Siglec-7 /Siglec-9 T cell phenotypes. In vivo, targeting stromal cell sialylation reverses stromal cell-mediated immunosuppression, as shown by infiltration of CD25 and granzyme B-expressing CD8 T cells in the tumor and draining lymph node. Targeting stromal cell sialylation may overcome immunosuppression in the CRC TME.
Original languageEnglish
Article number112475
Number of pages26
JournalCell Reports
Early online date10 May 2023
Publication statusEarly online date - 10 May 2023


  • CP: Immunology
  • T cells
  • cancer-associated fibroblasts
  • immunotherapy
  • T cell exhaustion
  • stromal cells
  • CP: Cancer
  • inflammation
  • sialylation
  • colon cancer
  • siglecs
  • tumor microenvironment


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