Resident memory T cells in tumor-distant tissues fortify against metastasis formation

Cell Rep. 2021 May 11;35(6):109118. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2021.109118.


As a critical machinery for rapid pathogen removal, resident memory T cells (TRMs) are locally generated after the initial encounter. However, their development accompanying tumorigenesis remains elusive. Using a murine breast cancer model, we show that TRMs develop in the tumor, the contralateral mammary mucosa, and the pre-metastatic lung. Single-cell RNA sequencing of TRMs reveals two phenotypically distinct populations representing their active versus quiescent phases. These TRMs in different tissue compartments share the same TCR clonotypes and transcriptomes with a subset of intratumoral effector/effector memory T cells (TEff/EMs), indicating their developmental ontogeny. Furthermore, CXCL16 is highly produced by tumor cells and CXCR6- TEff/EMs are the major subset preferentially egressing the tumor to form distant TRMs. Functionally, releasing CXCR6 retention in the primary tumor amplifies tumor-derived TRMs in the lung and leads to superior protection against metastases. This immunologic fortification suggests a potential strategy to prevent metastasis in clinical oncology.

Keywords: TCR-β repertoire sequencing; breast cancer; metastasis; ontogeny; resident memory T cells; single-cell RNA sequencing; tumor immunology.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Memory T Cells / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Transfection