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.
Zhu, Liuluan; Kong, Yaxian; Zhang, Jianhong; Claxton, David F.; Ehmann, W. Christopher; Rybka, Witold B.; Palmisiano, Neil D.; Wang, Ming; Jia, Bei; Bayerl, Michael; Schell, Todd D.; Hohl, Raymond J.; Zeng, Hui; and Zheng, Hong, "Blimp-1 impairs T cell function via upregulation of TIGIT and PD-1 in patients with acute myeloid leukemia." (2017). Department of Medical Oncology Faculty Papers. Paper 67.
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