Monoamine oxidase A (MAO-A) is an enzyme best known for its function in the brain, where it breaks down neurotransmitters and thereby influences mood and behavior. Small-molecule MAO inhibitors (MAOIs) have been developed and are clinically used for treating depression and other neurological disorders. However, the involvement of MAO-A in antitumor immunity has not been reported. Here, we observed induction of the Maoa gene in tumor-infiltrating immune cells. Maoa knockout mice exhibited enhanced antitumor T cell immunity and suppressed tumor growth. MAOI treatment significantly suppressed tumor growth in preclinical mouse syngeneic and human xenograft tumor models in a T cell-dependent manner. Combining MAOI and anti-PD-1 treatments generated synergistic tumor suppression effects. Clinical data correlation studies associated intratumoral MAOA expression with T cell dysfunction and decreased patient survival in a broad range of cancers. We further demonstrated that MAO-A restrains antitumor T cell immunity through controlling intratumoral T cell autocrine serotonin signaling. Together, these data identify MAO-A as an immune checkpoint and support repurposing MAOI antidepressants for cancer immunotherapy.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Allergy