Eya proteins are critical developmental regulators that are highly expressed in embryogenesis but downregulated after development. Amplification and/or re-expression of Eyas occurs in many tumor types. In breast cancer, Eyas regulate tumor progression by acting as transcriptional cofactors and tyrosine phosphatases. Intriguingly, Eyas harbor a separate threonine (Thr) phosphatase activity, which was previously implicated in innate immunity. Here we describe what we believe to be a novel role for Eya3 in mediating triple-negative breast cancer–associated immune suppression. Eya3 loss decreases tumor growth in immune-competent mice and is associated with increased numbers of infiltrated CD8+ T cells, which, when depleted, reverse the effects of Eya3 knockdown. Mechanistically, Eya3 utilizes its Thr phosphatase activity to dephosphorylate Myc at pT58, resulting in a stabilized form. We show that Myc is required for Eya3-mediated increases in PD-L1, and that rescue of PD-L1 in Eya3-knockdown cells restores tumor progression. Finally, we demonstrate that Eya3 significantly correlates with PD-L1 in human breast tumors, and that tumors expressing high levels of Eya3 have a decreased CD8+ T cell signature. Our data uncover a role for Eya3 in mediating tumor-associated immune suppression, and suggest that its inhibition may enhance checkpoint therapies.
Rebecca L. Vartuli, Hengbo Zhou, Lingdi Zhang, Rani K. Powers, Jared Klarquist, Pratyaydipta Rudra, Melanie Y. Vincent, Debashis Ghosh, James C. Costello, Ross M. Kedl, Jill E. Slansky, Rui Zhao, Heide L. Ford