Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) have emerged as a dominant non-hematopoietic cell population in the tumour microenvironment, serving diverse functions in tumour progression. However, the mechanisms via which CAFs influence the anti-tumour immunity remain poorly understood. Here, using multiple tumour models and biopsies from cancer patients, we report that α-SMA+ CAFs can form immunological synapses with Foxp3+ regulatory T cells (Tregs) in tumours. Notably, α-SMA+ CAFs can phagocytose and process tumour antigens and exhibit a tolerogenic phenotype which instructs movement arrest, activation and proliferation in Tregs in an antigen-specific manner. Moreover, α-SMA+ CAFs display double-membrane structures resembling autophagosomes in their cytoplasm. Single-cell transcriptomic data showed an enrichment in autophagy and antigen processing/presentation pathways in α-SMA-expressing CAF clusters. Conditional knockout of Atg5 in α-SMA+ CAFs promoted inflammatory re-programming in CAFs, reduced Treg cell infiltration and attenuated tumour development. Overall, our findings reveal an immunosuppressive mechanism entailing the formation of synapses between α-SMA+ CAFs and Tregs in an autophagy-dependent manner.

Original publication




Journal article


Nature Communications


Nature Research

Publication Date