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Cancer Res. 2005 Apr 1;65(7):2921-9.

Up-regulation of inhibitory natural killer receptors CD94/NKG2A with suppressed intracellular perforin expression of tumor-infiltrating CD8+ T lymphocytes in human cervical carcinoma.

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, National Taiwan University Hospital and Graduate Institute of Immunology, National Taiwan University College of Medicine, Taipei, Taiwan.


Inhibitory signals that govern the cytolytic functions of CD8(+) T lymphocytes have been linked to the expression of natural killer cell receptors (NKRs) on CTLs. There is limited knowledge about the induction of inhibitory NKR (iNKR) expression in vivo. Up-regulation of iNKRs has been linked to the modulation of the virus- and/or tumor-specific immune responses in animal models. In the present study, we directly examined the expression of various NKRs on tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) derived from human cervical cancer. We found that in human cervical cancer, the percentage expression of immunoglobulin-like NKR(+)CD8(+) T lymphocytes were similar in gated CD8(+)-autologous TILs and peripheral blood mononuclear cells. On the contrary, cervical cancer-infiltrating CD8(+) T lymphocytes expressed up-regulated C-type lectin NKRs CD94/NKG2A compared with either peripheral blood CD8(+) T cells or normal cervix-infiltrating CD8(+) T lymphocytes. Dual NKR coexpression analyses showed that CD94 and NKG2A were mainly expressed on CD56(-)CD161(-)CD8(+) TILs within the cancer milieu. Immunohistochemical study showed that cervical cancer cells expressed abundant interleukin 15 (IL-15) and transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta). In kinetic coculture assay, cervical cancer cells can promote the expression of CD94/NKG2A on CD8(+) T lymphocytes. The cancer-derived effects can be reversed by addition of rIL-15Ralpha/Fc and anti-TGF-beta antibody. Functional analyses illustrated that intracellular perforin expression of CD8(+) T cells was minimal upon up-regulation of CD94/NKG2A. Kinetic cytotoxicity assays showed that up-regulated expressions of CD94/NKG2A restrain CD8(+) T lymphocyte cytotoxicity. Our study strongly indicated that cervical cancer cells could promote the expression of iNKRs via an IL-15- and possibly TGF-beta-mediated mechanism and abrogate the antitumor cytotoxicity of TILs.

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