Activin receptor-like kinase5 inhibition suppresses mouse melanoma by ubiquitin degradation of Smad4, thereby derepressing eomesodermin in cytotoxic T lymphocytes



Varieties of transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) antagonists have been developed to intervene with excessive TGF-β signalling activity in cancer. Activin receptor-like kinase5 (ALK5) inhibitors antagonize TGF-β signalling by blocking TGF-β receptor-activated Smad (R-Smad) phosphorylation. Here we report the novel mechanisms how ALK5 inhibitors exert a therapeutic effect on a mouse B16 melanoma model. Oral treatment with a novel ALK5 inhibitor, EW-7197 (2.5 mg/kg daily) or a representative ALK5 inhibitor, LY-2157299 (75 mg/kg bid) suppressed the progression of melanoma with enhanced cytotoxic T-lymphocyte (CTL) responses. Notably, ALK5 inhibitors not only blocked R-Smad phosphorylation, but also induced ubiquitin-mediated degradation of the common Smad, Smad4 mainly in CD8+ T cells in melanoma-bearing mice. Accordingly, T-cell-specific deletion of Smad4 was sufficient to suppress the progression of melanoma. We further identified eomesodermin (Eomes), the T-box transcription factor regulating CTL functions, as a specific target repressed by TGF-β via Smad4 and Smad3 in CD8+ T cells. Thus, ALK5 inhibition enhances anti-melanoma CTL responses through ubiquitin-mediated degradation of Smad4 in addition to the direct inhibitory effect on R-Smad phosphorylation.