Scientific article
Open access

Indirect Impact of PD-1/PD-L1 Blockade on a Murine Model of NK Cell Exhaustion

Published inFrontiers in Immunology, vol. 11, 7
Publication date2020

The induction of exhaustion on effector immune cells is an important limiting factor for cancer immunotherapy efficacy as these cells undergo a hierarchical loss of proliferation and cytolytic activity due to chronic stimulation. Targeting PD-1 has shown unprecedented clinical benefits for many cancers, which have been attributed to the prevention of immune suppression and exhaustion with enhanced anti-tumor responses. In this study, we sought to evaluate the role of the PD-1/PD-L1 pathway in murine natural killer (NK) cell activation, function, and exhaustion. In an in vivo IL-2-dependent exhaustion mouse model, neutralization of the PD-1/PD-L1 pathway improved NK cell activation after chronic stimulation when compared to control-treated mice. These cells displayed higher proliferative capabilities and enhanced granzyme B production. However, the blockade of these molecules during long-term in vitro IL-2 stimulation did not alter the progression of NK cell exhaustion (NCE), suggesting an indirect involvement of PD-1/PD-L1 on NCE. Given the expansion of CD8 T cells and regulatory T cells (Tregs) observed upon acute and chronic stimulation with IL-2, either of these two populations could influence NK cell homeostasis after PD-L1/PD-1 therapy. Importantly, CD8 T cell activation and functional phenotype were indeed enhanced by PD-1/PD-L1 therapy, particularly with anti-PD-1 treatment that resulted in the highest upregulation of CD25 during chronic stimulation and granted an advantage for IL-2 over NK cells. These results indicate a competition for resources between NK and CD8 T cells that arguably delays the onset of NCE rather than improving its activation during chronic stimulation. Supporting this notion, the depletion of CD8 T cells reversed the benefits of PD-1 therapy on chronically stimulated NK cells. These data suggest a bystander effect of anti-PD1 on NK cells, resulting from the global competition that exists between NK and CD8 T cells for IL-2 as a key regulator of these cells' activation. Thus, achieving an equilibrium between these immune cells might be important to accomplish long-term efficacy during anti-PD-1/IL-2 therapy.

  • CD8
  • NK
  • PD-1/PD-L1 pathway
  • Chronic stimulation
  • Exhaustion
Affiliation Not a UNIGE publication
Citation (ISO format)
ALVAREZ, Maite et al. Indirect Impact of PD-1/PD-L1 Blockade on a Murine Model of NK Cell Exhaustion. In: Frontiers in Immunology, 2020, vol. 11, p. 7. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2020.00007
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Article (Published version)
ISSN of the journal1664-3224

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