Programmed cell death-1 (PD-1) is an essential inhibitory receptor in T cells. Antibodies targeting PD-1 elicit durable clinical responses in patients with multiple tumor indications. Nevertheless, a significant proportion of patients do not respond to anti-PD-1 treatment, and a better understanding of the signaling pathways downstream of PD-1 could provide biomarkers for those whose tumors respond and new therapeutic approaches for those whose tumors do not. We used affinity purification mass spectrometry to uncover multiple proteins associated with PD-1. Among these proteins, signaling lymphocytic activation molecule-associated protein (SAP) was functionally and mechanistically analyzed for its contribution to PD-1 inhibitory responses. Silencing of SAP augmented and overexpression blocked PD-1 function. T cells from patients with X-linked lymphoproliferative disease (XLP), who lack functional SAP, were hyperresponsive to PD-1 signaling, confirming its inhibitory role downstream of PD-1. Strikingly, signaling downstream of PD-1 in purified T cell subsets did not correlate with PD-1 surface expression but was inversely correlated with intracellular SAP levels. Mechanistically, SAP opposed PD-1 function by acting as a molecular shield of key tyrosine residues that are targets for the tyrosine phosphatase SHP2, which mediates PD-1 inhibitory properties. Our results identify SAP as an inhibitor of PD-1 function and SHP2 as a potential therapeutic target in patients with XLP.
Keywords: PD-1; SAP; SHP2; T cells; XLP.