Oncogene activation in tumor cells induces broad and complex cellular changes that contribute significantly to disease initiation and progression. In melanoma, oncogenic BRAF(V600E) has been shown to drive the transcription of a specific gene signature that can promote multiple mechanisms of immune suppression within the tumor microenvironment. We show here that BRAF(V600E) also induces rapid internalization of MHC class I (MHC-I) from the melanoma cell surface and its intracellular sequestration within endolysosomal compartments. Importantly, MAPK inhibitor treatment quickly restored MHC-I surface expression in tumor cells, thereby enhancing melanoma antigen-specific T-cell recognition and effector function. MAPK pathway-driven relocalization of HLA-A*0201 required a highly conserved cytoplasmic serine phosphorylation site previously implicated in rapid MHC-I internalization and recycling by activated immune cells. Collectively, these data suggest that oncogenic activation of BRAF allows tumor cells to co-opt an evolutionarily conserved MHC-I trafficking pathway as a strategy to facilitate immune evasion. This link between MAPK pathway activation and the MHC-I cytoplasmic tail has direct implications for immunologic recognition of tumor cells and provides further evidence to support testing therapeutic strategies combining MAPK pathway inhibition with immunotherapies in the clinical setting.
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