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This article has been peer reviewed. It is the author’s final published version in Journal of Hematology and Oncology

Volume 10, Issue 1, June 2017, Article number 124.

The published version is available at DOI: 10.1186/s13045-017-0486-z. Copyright © Zhu et al.


BACKGROUND: T cell immunoglobulin and immunoreceptor tyrosine-based inhibitory motif (ITIM) domain (TIGIT) and programmed cell death protein 1 (PD-1) are important inhibitory receptors that associate with T cell exhaustion in acute myeloid leukemia (AML). In this study, we aimed to determine the underlying transcriptional mechanisms regulating these inhibitory pathways. Specifically, we investigated the role of transcription factor B lymphocyte-induced maturation protein 1 (Blimp-1) in T cell response and transcriptional regulation of TIGIT and PD-1 in AML.

METHODS: Peripheral blood samples collected from patients with AML were used in this study. Blimp-1 expression was examined by flow cytometry. The correlation of Blimp-1 expression to clinical characteristics of AML patients was analyzed. Phenotypic and functional studies of Blimp-1-expressing T cells were performed using flow cytometry-based assays. Luciferase reporter assays and ChIP assays were applied to assess direct binding and transcription activity of Blimp-1. Using siRNA to silence Blimp-1, we further elucidated the regulatory role of Blimp-1 in the TIGIT and PD-1 expression and T cell immune response.

RESULTS: Blimp-1 expression is elevated in T cells from AML patients. Consistent with exhaustion, Blimp-1(+) T cells upregulate multiple inhibitory receptors including PD-1 and TIGIT. In addition, they are functionally impaired manifested by low cytokine production and decreased cytotoxicity capacity. Importantly, the functional defect is reversed by inhibition of Blimp-1 via siRNA knockdown. Furthermore, Blimp-1 binds to the promoters of PD-1 and TIGIT and positively regulates their expression.

CONCLUSIONS: Our study demonstrates an important inhibitory effect of Blimp-1 on T cell response in AML; thus, targeting Blimp-1 and its regulated molecules to improve the immune response may provide effective leukemia therapeutics.

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