CD8+ T cells within the tumor microenvironment (TME) are exposed to various signals that ultimately determine functional outcomes. Here, we examined the role of the co-activating receptor CD226 (DNAM-1) in CD8+ T cell function. The absence of CD226 expression identified a subset of dysfunctional CD8+ T cells present in peripheral blood of healthy individuals. These cells exhibited reduced LFA-1 activation, altered TCR signaling, and a distinct transcriptomic program upon stimulation. CD226neg CD8+ T cells accumulated in human and mouse tumors of diverse origin through an antigen-specific mechanism involving the transcriptional regulator Eomesodermin (Eomes). Despite similar expression of co-inhibitory receptors, CD8+ tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte failed to respond to anti-PD-1 in the absence of CD226. Immune checkpoint blockade efficacy was hampered in Cd226-/- mice. Anti-CD137 (4-1BB) agonists also stimulated Eomes-dependent CD226 loss that limited the anti-tumor efficacy of this treatment. Thus, CD226 loss restrains CD8+ T cell function and limits the efficacy of cancer immunotherapy.
Keywords: CD226 (DNAM-1); CD8(+) T lymphocytes; Eomesodermin (Eomes); T cell exhaustion; TCR signaling; co-stimulation; immune checkpoint blockade; immunotherapy; lymphocyte function-associated antigen 1 (LFA-1); tumor immune escape.
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