Oncogenic transformation of dendritic cells and their precursors leads to rapid cancer development in mice

Dendritic cells (DCs) are powerful APCs that can induce Ag-specific adaptive immune responses and are increasingly recognized as important players in innate immunity to both infection and malignancy. Interestingly, although there are multiple described hematological malignancies, DC cancers are rarely observed in humans. Whether this is linked to the immunogenic potential of DCs, which might render them uniquely susceptible to immune control upon neoplastic transformation, has not been fully investigated. To address the issue, we generated a genetically engineered mouse model in which expression of Cre recombinase driven by the C-type lectin domain family 9, member a (Clec9a) locus causes expression of the Kirsten rat sarcoma viral oncogene homolog (Kras)(G12D) oncogenic driver and deletion of the tumor suppressor p53 within developing and differentiated DCs. We show that these Clec9a(Kras-G12D) mice rapidly succumb from disease and display massive accumulation of transformed DCs in multiple organs. In bone marrow chimeras, the development of DC cancer could be induced by a small number of transformed cells and was not prevented by the presence of untransformed DCs. Notably, activation of transformed DCs did not happen spontaneously but could be induced upon stimulation. Although Clec9a(Kras-G12D) mice showed altered thymic T cell development, peripheral T cells were largely unaffected during DC cancer development. Interestingly, transformed DCs were rejected upon adoptive transfer into wild-type but not lymphocyte-deficient mice, indicating that immunological control of DC cancer is in principle possible but does not occur during spontaneous generation in Clec9a(Kras-G12D) mice. Our findings suggest that neoplastic transformation of DCs does not by default induce anti-cancer immunity and can develop unhindered by immunological barriers.