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J Clin Invest. 2015 May;125(5):2046-58. doi: 10.1172/JCI80445. Epub 2015 Apr 13.

TIGIT and PD-1 impair tumor antigen-specific CD8⁺ T cells in melanoma patients.


T cell Ig and ITIM domain (TIGIT) is an inhibitory receptor expressed by activated T cells, Tregs, and NK cells. Here, we determined that TIGIT is upregulated on tumor antigen-specific (TA-specific) CD8⁺ T cells and CD8⁺ tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) from patients with melanoma, and these TIGIT-expressing CD8⁺ T cells often coexpress the inhibitory receptor PD-1. Moreover, CD8⁺ TILs from patients exhibited downregulation of the costimulatory molecule CD226, which competes with TIGIT for the same ligand, supporting a TIGIT/CD226 imbalance in metastatic melanoma. TIGIT marked early T cell activation and was further upregulated by T cells upon PD-1 blockade and in dysfunctional PD-1⁺TIM-3⁺ TA-specific CD8⁺ T cells. PD-1⁺TIGIT⁺, PD-1⁻TIGIT⁺, and PD-1⁺TIGIT⁻ CD8⁺ TILs had similar functional capacities ex vivo, suggesting that TIGIT alone, or together with PD-1, is not indicative of T cell dysfunction. However, in the presence of TIGIT ligand-expressing cells, TIGIT and PD-1 blockade additively increased proliferation, cytokine production, and degranulation of both TA-specific CD8⁺ T cells and CD8⁺ TILs. Collectively, our results show that TIGIT and PD-1 regulate the expansion and function of TA-specific CD8⁺ T cells and CD8⁺ TILs in melanoma patients and suggest that dual TIGIT and PD-1 blockade should be further explored to elicit potent antitumor CD8⁺ T cell responses in patients with advanced melanoma.

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