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J Immunol. 2006 Feb 1;176(3):1582-7.

CD4+CD25+ T regulatory cells suppress NK cell-mediated immunotherapy of cancer.

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Cancer Immunology Program, Trescowthick Laboratories, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, East Melbourne, Australia.


CD4+CD25+ regulatory T cells (Treg) that suppress T cell-mediated immune responses may also regulate other arms of an effective immune response. In particular, in this study we show that Treg directly inhibit NKG2D-mediated NK cell cytotoxicity in vitro and in vivo, effectively suppressing NK cell-mediated tumor rejection. In vitro, Treg were shown to inhibit NKG2D-mediated cytolysis largely by a TGF-beta-dependent mechanism and independently of IL-10. Adoptively transferred Treg suppressed NK cell antimetastatic function in RAG-1-deficient mice. Depletion of Treg before NK cell activation via NKG2D and the activating IL-12 cytokine, dramatically enhanced NK cell-mediated suppression of tumor growth and metastases. Our data illustrate at least one mechanism by which Treg can suppress NK cell antitumor activity and highlight the effectiveness of combining Treg inhibition with subsequent NK cell activation to promote strong innate antitumor immunity.

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