Histone deacetylase inhibitors and IL21 cooperate to reprogram human effector CD8+ T cells to memory T cells

Junmei Wang, Farah Hasan, Amanda C Frey, Haiyan S Li, Jungsun Park, Ke Pan, Cara Haymaker, Chantale Bernatchez, Dean A Lee, Stephanie S Watowich, Cassian Yee
Cancer Immunology Research 2020 March 25
Clinical response rates after adoptive cell therapy (ACT) are highly correlated with in vivo persistence of the infused T cells. However, antigen-specific T cells found in tumor sites are often well-differentiated effector cells with limited persistence. Central memory CD8+ T cells, capable of self-renewal, represent desirable ACT products. We report here that exposure to a histone deacetylase inhibitor (HDACi) and IL21 could reprogram differentiated human CD8+ T cells into central memory-like T cells. De-differentiation of CD8+ T cells was initiated by increased H3 acetylation and chromatin accessibility at the CD28 promoter region. This led to IL21-mediated pSTAT3 binding to the CD28 region, and subsequent upregulation of surface CD28 and CD62L (markers of central memory T cells). The reprogrammed cells exhibited enhanced proliferation in response to both IL2 and IL15, and a stable memory-associated transcriptional signature (increased Lef1 and Tcf7). Our findings support the application of IL21 and HDACi for the in vitro generation of highly persistent T cell populations that can augment the efficacy of adoptively transferred T cells.

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