The Journal of Clinical Investigation
ARID1A, a component of the chromatin-remodeling complex SWI/SNF, is one of the most frequently mutated genes in human cancer. We sought to develop rational combination therapy to potentiate the efficacy of immune checkpoint blockade in ARID1A-deficient tumors. In a proteomic analysis of a data set from The Cancer Genomic Atlas, we found enhanced expression of Chk2, a DNA damage checkpoint kinase, in ARID1A-mutated/deficient tumors. Surprisingly, we found that ARID1A targets the nonchromatin substrate Chk2 for ubiquitination. Loss of ARID1A increased the Chk2 level through modulating autoubiquitination of the E3-ligase RNF8 and thereby reducing RNF8-mediated Chk2 degradation. Inhibition of the ATM/Chk2 DNA damage checkpoint axis led to replication stress and accumulation of cytosolic DNA, which subsequently activated the DNA sensor STING-mediated innate immune response in ARID1A-deficient tumors. As expected, tumors with mutation or low expression of both ARID1A and ATM/Chk2 exhibited increased tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes and were associated with longer patient survival. Notably, an ATM inhibitor selectively potentiated the efficacy of immune checkpoint blockade in ARID1A-depleted tumors but not in WT tumors. Together, these results suggest that ARID1A's targeting of the nonchromatin substrate Chk2 for ubiquitination makes it possible to selectively modulate cancer cell-intrinsic innate immunity to enhance the antitumor activity of immune checkpoint blockade.