HDAC1 upregulation by NANOG promotes multidrug resistance and a stem-like phenotype in immune edited tumor cells

Cancer immunoediting drives the adaptation of tumor cells to host immune surveillance. Immunoediting driven by antigen (Ag)-specific T cells enriches NANOG expression in tumor cells, resulting in a stem-like phenotype and immune resistance. Here we identify HDAC1 as a key mediator of the NANOG-associated phenotype. NANOG upregulated HDAC1 through promoter occupancy, thereby decreasing histone H3 acetylation on K14 and K27. NANOG-dependent, HDAC1-driven epigenetic silencing of cell cycle inhibitor CDKN2D and CDKN1B induced stem-like features. Silencing of TRIM17 and NOXA induced immune and drug resistance in tumor cells by increasing anti-apoptotic MCL1. Importantly, HDAC inhibition synergized with Ag-specific adoptive T cell therapy to control immune refractory cancers. Our results reveal that NANOG influences the epigenetic state of tumor cells via HDAC1, and they encourage a rational application of epigenetic modulators and immunotherapy in treatment of NANOG+ refractory cancer types.

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