Tumor-associated MICA is shed by ADAM proteases.
The immunoreceptor NKG2D promotes immunosurveillance of malignant cells and protects the host from tumor initiation by activating natural killer cells and costimulating CD8 T cells. NKG2D-mediated recognition of malignant cells by cytotoxic lymphocytes is enabled through the tumor-associated expression of NKG2D ligands (NKG2DL) resulting from cellular or genotoxic stress. Shedding of NKG2DL is thought to constitute a major countermechanism of tumor cells to subvert NKG2D-mediated immunosurveillance. Here, we report that the prototypical NKG2DL MICA is released by proteolytic cleavage in the stalk of the MICA ectodomain, where deletions, but not alanine substitutions, impede MICA shedding. Small compound-mediated stimulation and inhibition of MICA shedding adduced characteristics that indicated an involvement of members of the "a disintegrin and metalloproteinase" (ADAM) family. Accordingly, MICA shedding by tumor cells was inhibited by silencing of the related ADAM10 and ADAM17 proteases, which are known to promote tumor growth by releasing epidermal growth factor receptor ligands. Collectively, our data show that ADAM10 and ADAM17 are critically involved in the tumor-associated proteolytic release of soluble MICA facilitating tumor immune escape. Hence, therapeutic blockade of ADAM10 and ADAM17 seems promising for cancer treatment by targeting both growth and immune escape of tumors.