Inhibition of TGF-β signaling in genetically engineered tumor antigen-reactive T cells significantly enhances tumor treatment efficacy

Gene Ther. 2013 May;20(5):575-80. doi: 10.1038/gt.2012.75. Epub 2012 Sep 13.


Transforming growth factor β (TGF-β) is a cytokine with complex biological functions that may involve tumor promotion or tumor suppression. It has been reported that multiple types of tumors secrete TGF-β, which can inhibit tumor-specific cellular immunity and may represent a major obstacle to the success of tumor immunotherapy. In this study, we sought to enhance tumor immunotherapy using genetically modified antigen-specific T cells by interfering with TGF-β signaling. We constructed three γ-retroviral vectors, one that expressed TGF-β-dominant-negative receptor II (DNRII) or two that secreted soluble TGF-β receptors: soluble TGF-β receptor II (sRII) and the sRII fused with mouse IgG Fc domain (sRIIFc). We demonstrated that T cells genetically modified with these viral vectors were resistant to exogenous TGF-β-induced smad-2 phosphorylation in vitro. The functionality of antigen-specific T cells engineered to resist TGF-β signaling was further evaluated in vivo using the B16 melanoma tumor model. Antigen-specific CD8+ T cells (pmel-1) or CD4+ T cells (tyrosinase-related protein-1) expressing DNRII dramatically improved tumor treatment efficacy. There was no enhancement in the B16 tumor treatment using cells secreting soluble receptors. Our data support the potential application of the blockade of TGF-β signaling in tumor-specific T cells for cancer immunotherapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigen-Presenting Cells / immunology
  • Apoptosis / immunology
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Genetic Engineering
  • Genetic Vectors
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin Fc Fragments / genetics
  • Immunoglobulin Fc Fragments / immunology
  • Immunoglobulin G / genetics
  • Immunoglobulin G / immunology
  • Immunotherapy*
  • Melanoma, Experimental / genetics
  • Melanoma, Experimental / immunology
  • Melanoma, Experimental / therapy*
  • Mice
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases / genetics*
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases / immunology
  • Receptor, Transforming Growth Factor-beta Type II
  • Receptors, Transforming Growth Factor beta / genetics*
  • Receptors, Transforming Growth Factor beta / immunology
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / genetics
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / immunology
  • Retroviridae / genetics
  • Signal Transduction / genetics
  • Signal Transduction / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes / cytology
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / genetics*
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / immunology
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Immunoglobulin Fc Fragments
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Receptors, Transforming Growth Factor beta
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • Receptor, Transforming Growth Factor-beta Type II