A population of NK cells expressing the activating receptor NKG2C and the maturation marker CD57 expands in response to human CMV (HCMV) infection. CD3–CD56dimCD57+NKG2C+ NK cells are similar to CD8+ memory T cells with rapid and robust effector function upon restimulation, persistence, and epigenetic remodeling of the IFNG locus. Chronic antigen stimulation drives CD8+ memory T cell proliferation, while also inducing genome-wide epigenetic reprograming and dysfunction. We hypothesized that chronic stimulation could similarly induce epigenetic reprograming and dysfunction in NK cells. Here, we show that chronic stimulation of adaptive NK cells through NKG2C using plate-bound agonistic Abs in combination with IL-15 drove robust proliferation and activation of CD3–CD56dimCD57+NKG2C+ NK cells, while simultaneously inducing high expression of the checkpoint inhibitory receptors LAG-3 and PD-1. Marked induction of checkpoint inhibitory receptors was also observed on the surface of adaptive NK cells cocultured with HCMV-infected endothelial cells. Chronically stimulated adaptive NK cells were dysfunctional when challenged with tumor targets. These cells exhibited a pattern of epigenetic reprograming, with genome-wide alterations in DNA methylation. We believe our study has important implications for cancer immunotherapy and propose that exhausted NK cells could be targeted with inhibitory checkpoint receptor blockade.
Aimee Merino, Bin Zhang, Philip Dougherty, Xianghua Luo, Jinhua Wang, Bruce R. Blazar, Jeffrey S. Miller, Frank Cichocki
Guidelines: The Editorial Board will only consider letters that we deem relevant and of interest to our readers. We will not post data that have not been subjected to peer review, nor will we post letters that are essentially a reiteration of another letter. All accepted letters will be posted on our website within one week of acceptance. We reserve the right to edit any letter for length, content, and clarity. Authors of all accepted letters will be asked to preview any changes. Authors will be notified by e-mail if their letters were not accepted. As this is a final decision, no appeals will be considered.
Specific requirements: All letters must be 400 words or fewer. You may enter the letter as plain text or HTML. The author's name and e-mail address are required, and will be posted with the letter. All possible conflicts of interest must be noted, even if they are not posted. If you wish to include a figure (keep in mind that non-peer-reviewed data will not be posted), please contact the editors directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.