Research Papers: Immunology:

BRAF inhibitors stimulate inflammasome activation and interleukin 1 beta production in dendritic cells

Eva Hajek, Franziska Krebs, Rebekka Bent, Katharina Haas, Antje Bast, Ivo Steinmetz, Andrea Tuettenberg, Stephan Grabbe _ and Matthias Bros

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Oncotarget. 2018; 9:28294-28308. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.25511

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Eva Hajek1, Franziska Krebs1, Rebekka Bent1, Katharina Haas1, Antje Bast2, Ivo Steinmetz2, Andrea Tuettenberg1, Stephan Grabbe1,* and Matthias Bros1,*

1Department of Dermatology, University Medical Center of the Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz, Germany

2Friedrich Loeffler Institute of Medical Microbiology, University Medicine Greifswald, Greifswald, Germany

*These authors contributed eqully to this work

Correspondence to:

Stephan Grabbe, email: [email protected]

Keywords: BRAFV600E inhibitor; MEK inhibitor; dendritic cell; IL-1beta; inflammasome; Immunology

Received: September 19, 2017     Accepted: May 13, 2018     Published: June 19, 2018


Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer with a growing incidence over the last decades. Fourty percent of all melanomas harbor a mutation in the signaling adaptor BRAF (V600E) that results in ERK hyperactivity as an oncogenic driver. In these cases, treatment with the BRAFV600E inhibitors Vemurafenib (VEM) or Dabrafenib (DAB) coapplied with the MEK1/2 inhibitors Cobimetinib (COB) or Trametinib (TRA) can result in long-term suppression of tumor growth. Besides direct suppression of ERK activity, these inhibitors have been reported to also modulate tumor immune responses, and exert pro-inflammatory side effects such as fever and rash in some patients. Here we asked for potential effects of BRAFV600E inhibitors on dendritic cells (DC) which are essential for the induction of adaptive anti-tumor responses. Both splenic and bone marrow-derived (BM) mouse dendritic cells (DC) up-regulated costimulator expression (CD80, CD86) in response to DAB but not VEM treatment. Moreover, DAB and to lesser extent VEM enhanced IL-1β (interleukin 1 beta) release by splenic DC, and by LPS-stimulated BMDC. We demonstrate that DAB and VEM activated the NLRC4/Caspase-1 inflammasome. At high concentration, DAB also induced inflammasome activation independent of Caspase-1. TRA and COB elevated MHCII expression on BMDC, and modulated the LPS-induced cytokine pattern. Immunomodulatory activity of DAB and VEM was also observed in human monocyte-derived DC, and DAB induced IL-1β in human primary DC. Altogether, our study shows that BRAFV600E inhibitors upregulate IL-1β release by mouse and human DC which may affect the DC-mediated course of anti-tumor immune responses.

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