Up-regulation of inhibitory natural killer receptors CD94/NKG2A with suppressed intracellular perforin expression of tumor-infiltrating CD8+ T lymphocytes in human cervical carcinoma

Bor-Ching Sheu, Shin-Heng Chiou, Ho-Hsiung Lin, Song-Nan Chow, Su-Cheng Huang, Hong-Nerng Ho, Su-Ming Hsu
Cancer Research 2005 April 1, 65 (7): 2921-9
Inhibitory signals that govern the cytolytic functions of CD8(+) T lymphocytes have been linked to the expression of natural killer cell receptors (NKRs) on CTLs. There is limited knowledge about the induction of inhibitory NKR (iNKR) expression in vivo. Up-regulation of iNKRs has been linked to the modulation of the virus- and/or tumor-specific immune responses in animal models. In the present study, we directly examined the expression of various NKRs on tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) derived from human cervical cancer. We found that in human cervical cancer, the percentage expression of immunoglobulin-like NKR(+)CD8(+) T lymphocytes were similar in gated CD8(+)-autologous TILs and peripheral blood mononuclear cells. On the contrary, cervical cancer-infiltrating CD8(+) T lymphocytes expressed up-regulated C-type lectin NKRs CD94/NKG2A compared with either peripheral blood CD8(+) T cells or normal cervix-infiltrating CD8(+) T lymphocytes. Dual NKR coexpression analyses showed that CD94 and NKG2A were mainly expressed on CD56(-)CD161(-)CD8(+) TILs within the cancer milieu. Immunohistochemical study showed that cervical cancer cells expressed abundant interleukin 15 (IL-15) and transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta). In kinetic coculture assay, cervical cancer cells can promote the expression of CD94/NKG2A on CD8(+) T lymphocytes. The cancer-derived effects can be reversed by addition of rIL-15Ralpha/Fc and anti-TGF-beta antibody. Functional analyses illustrated that intracellular perforin expression of CD8(+) T cells was minimal upon up-regulation of CD94/NKG2A. Kinetic cytotoxicity assays showed that up-regulated expressions of CD94/NKG2A restrain CD8(+) T lymphocyte cytotoxicity. Our study strongly indicated that cervical cancer cells could promote the expression of iNKRs via an IL-15- and possibly TGF-beta-mediated mechanism and abrogate the antitumor cytotoxicity of TILs.

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