Send to:

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Cancer Res. 2012 Feb 15;72(4):887-96. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-11-2637. Epub 2011 Dec 28.

CD8(+) T cells specific for tumor antigens can be rendered dysfunctional by the tumor microenvironment through upregulation of the inhibitory receptors BTLA and PD-1.

Author information

  • 1Department of Medicine, Division of Hematology/Oncology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA.


Cytotoxic T cells that are present in tumors and capable of recognizing tumor epitopes are nevertheless generally impotent in eliciting tumor rejection. Thus, identifying the immune escape mechanisms responsible for inducing tumor-specific CD8(+) T-cell dysfunction may reveal effective strategies for immune therapy. The inhibitory receptors PD-1 and Tim-3 are known to negatively regulate CD8(+) T-cell responses directed against the well-characterized tumor antigen NY-ESO-1. Here, we report that the upregulation of the inhibitory molecule BTLA also plays a critical role in restricting NY-ESO-1-specific CD8(+) T-cell expansion and function in melanoma. BTLA-expressing PD-1(+)Tim-3(-) CD8(+) T cells represented the largest subset of NY-ESO-1-specific CD8(+) T cells in patients with melanoma. These cells were partially dysfunctional, producing less IFN-γ than BTLA(-) T cells but more IFN-γ, TNF, and interleukin-2 than the highly dysfunctional subset expressing all three receptors. Expression of BTLA did not increase with higher T-cell dysfunction or upon cognate antigen stimulation, as it does with PD-1, suggesting that BTLA upregulation occurs independently of functional exhaustion driven by high antigen load. Added with PD-1 and Tim-3 blockades, BTLA blockade enhanced the expansion, proliferation, and cytokine production of NY-ESO-1-specific CD8(+) T cells. Collectively, our findings indicate that targeting BTLA along with the PD-1 and Tim-3 pathways is critical to reverse an important mechanism of immune escape in patients with advanced melanoma.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for HighWire Icon for PubMed Central
    Loading ...
    Write to the Help Desk