CRISPR screening identifies the deubiquitylase ATXN3 as a PD-L1–positive regulator for tumor immune evasion

Shengnan Wang, Radhika Iyer, Xiaohua Han, Juncheng Wei, Na Li, Yang Cheng, Yuanzhang Zhou, Qiong Gao, Lingqiang Zhang, Ming Yan, Zhaolin Sun, Deyu Fang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Regulation of tumoral PD-L1 expression is critical to advancing our understanding of tumor immune evasion and the improvement of existing antitumor immunotherapies. Herein, we describe a CRISPR-based screening platform and identified ATXN3 as a positive regulator for PD-L1 transcription. TCGA database analysis revealed a positive correlation between ATXN3 and CD274 in more than 80% of human cancers. ATXN3-induced Pd-l1 transcription was promoted by tumor microenvironmental factors, including the inflammatory cytokine IFN-γ and hypoxia, through protection of their downstream transcription factors IRF1, STAT3, and HIF-2α. Moreover, ATXN3 functioned as a deubiquitinase of the AP-1 transcription factor JunB, indicating that ATNX3 promotes PD-L1 expression through multiple pathways. Targeted deletion of ATXN3 in cancer cells largely abolished IFN-γ– and hypoxia-induced PD-L1 expression and consequently enhanced antitumor immunity in mice, and these effects were partially reversed by PD-L1 reconstitution. Furthermore, tumoral ATXN3 suppression improved the preclinical efficacy of checkpoint blockade antitumor immunotherapy. Importantly, ATXN3 expression was increased in human lung adenocarcinoma and melanoma, and its levels were positively correlated with PD-L1 as well as its transcription factors IRF1 and HIF-2α. Collectively, our study identifies what we believe to be a previously unknown deubiquitinase, ATXN3, as a positive regulator for PD-L1 transcription and provides a rationale for targeting ATXN3 to sensitize checkpoint blockade antitumor immunotherapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere167728
JournalJournal of Clinical Investigation
Issue number23
StatePublished - Dec 10 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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