Dysregulation at multiple points of the kynurenine pathway is a ubiquitous feature of renal cancer: implications for tumour immune evasion

Nick Hornigold, Karen R Dunn, Rachel A Craven, Alexandre Zougman, Sebastian Trainor, Rebecca Shreeve, Joanne Brown, Helen Sewell, Michael Shires, Margaret Knowles, Tsutomu Fukuwatari, Eamonn R Maher, Julie Burns, Selina Bhattarai, Mini Menon, Alvis Brazma, Ghislaine Scelo, Lara Feulner, Yasser Riazalhosseini, Mark LathropAdrian Harris, Peter J Selby, Rosamonde E Banks, Naveen S Vasudev

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase (IDO), the first step in the kynurenine pathway (KP), is upregulated in some cancers and represents an attractive therapeutic target given its role in tumour immune evasion. However, the recent failure of an IDO inhibitor in a late phase trial raises questions about this strategy.

METHODS: Matched renal cell carcinoma (RCC) and normal kidney tissues were subject to proteomic profiling. Tissue immunohistochemistry and gene expression data were used to validate findings. Phenotypic effects of loss/gain of expression were examined in vitro.

RESULTS: Quinolate phosphoribosyltransferase (QPRT), the final and rate-limiting enzyme in the KP, was identified as being downregulated in RCC. Loss of QPRT expression led to increased potential for anchorage-independent growth. Gene expression, mass spectrometry (clear cell and chromophobe RCC) and tissue immunohistochemistry (clear cell, papillary and chromophobe), confirmed loss or decreased expression of QPRT and showed downregulation of other KP enzymes, including kynurenine 3-monoxygenase (KMO) and 3-hydroxyanthranilate-3,4-dioxygenase (HAAO), with a concomitant maintenance or upregulation of nicotinamide phosphoribosyltransferase (NAMPT), the key enzyme in the NAD+ salvage pathway.

CONCLUSIONS: Widespread dysregulation of the KP is common in RCC and is likely to contribute to tumour immune evasion, carrying implications for effective therapeutic targeting of this critical pathway.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)137-147
Number of pages11
JournalBritish Journal of Cancer
Issue number1
Early online date11 May 2020
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2020


  • 3-Hydroxyanthranilate 3,4-Dioxygenase/genetics
  • Carcinoma, Renal Cell/genetics
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cytokines/genetics
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic/genetics
  • Humans
  • Kynurenine/genetics
  • Kynurenine 3-Monooxygenase/genetics
  • Metabolic Networks and Pathways/genetics
  • Nicotinamide Phosphoribosyltransferase/genetics
  • Proteomics
  • Tumor Escape/genetics


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