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Clin Cancer Res. 1996 Jan;2(1):161-73.

Alterations in expression and function of signal-transducing proteins in tumor-associated T and natural killer cells in patients with ovarian carcinoma.

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  • 1Department of Medical Oncology, University of Cagliari, Cagliari, Italy.


Tumor-associated lymphocytes (TALs) freshly isolated from patients with cancer usually manifest reduced proliferative and cytolytic functions. To determine whether alterations in signal transduction contribute to functional impairments seen in TALs, we purified populations of T and natural killer (NK) cells by negative selection from ascites of seven patients with ovarian carcinoma. The average purity was 84 +/- 5% for CD3(+) TALs and 77 +/- 10% for CD3(-)CD56(+)CD16(+) TALs. Expression of several signal transduction molecules, including the CD3-epsilon, CD3-zeta, and FcepsilonRI-gamma chains, p56(lck) protein tyrosine kinase, and phospholipase C-gamma1, was studied in these cells using Western blotting. A marked decrease in expression of zeta and FcepsilonRI-gamma associated with CD3 or FcgammaRIIIA was observed in T or NK cells obtained from TALs, as compared to T or NK cells purified from normal peripheral blood. Expression of CD3-epsilon, as assessed using flow cytometry, Western blotting, or ELISA was also reduced in purified TAL-T cells relative to that in normal peripheral blood T cells. Surface expression of CD3 on T cells and FcgammaRIIIA on NK cells obtained from TALs was significantly decreased in comparison to normal peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBLs): the mean fluorescence intensity of CD3 was 277 +/- 18 for TAL-T (n = 7) versus 349 +/- 13 for PBL-T (n = 9) and that of CD16 was 58 +/- 1 for TAL-NK (n = 7) versus 385 +/- 55 for PBL-NK (n = 23) cells. These observations suggest a defect in assembly of T cell receptor and FcgammaRIIIA multicomponent transmembrane receptors, which are zeta and gamma dependent. In addition to alterations in expression, the function of these receptors was also modified, since cross-linking of CD3 on TAL-T and CD16 on TAL-NK cells with the respective monoclonal antibodies resulted in a pattern of protein phosphorylation that was distinct from that observed in normal PBLs. Expression of tyrosine kinase p56(lck) and its kinase activity were also depressed, while expression of phospholipase C-gamma1 appeared to be normal in most preparations of the TALs tested. In vitro proliferation of TAL-T in response to anti-CD3 monoclonal antibody and TAL-NK cells to interleukin 2 were significantly depressed as was the ability to produce IFN-gamma. In contrast, TAL-T cells were able to produce interleukin 10 at levels similar to those secreted by normal PBLs. Thus, in TALs obtained from patients with advanced ovarian cancer, alterations in expression and activity of signaling molecules were associated with reduced cellular functions such as proliferation and production of certain cytokines.

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