Renal Cell Carcinoma-Infiltrating CD3low Vγ9Vδ1 T Cells Represent Potentially Novel Anti-Tumor Immune Players

Curr Issues Mol Biol. 2021 May 27;43(1):226-239. doi: 10.3390/cimb43010019.


Due to the highly immunogenic nature of renal cell carcinoma (RCC), the tumor microenvironment (TME) is enriched with various innate and adaptive immune subsets. In particular, gamma-delta (γδ) T cells can act as potent attractive mediators of adoptive cell transfer immunotherapy because of their unique properties such as non-reliance on major histocompatibility complex expression, their ability to infiltrate human tumors and recognize tumor antigens, relative insensitivity to immune checkpoint molecules, and broad tumor cytotoxicity. Therefore, it is now critical to better characterize human γδ T-cell subsets and their mechanisms in RCCs, especially the stage of differentiation. In this study, we aimed to identify γδ T cells that might have adaptive responses against RCC progression. We characterized γδ T cells in peripheral blood and tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) in freshly resected tumor specimens from 20 RCC patients. Furthermore, we performed a gene set enrichment analysis on RNA-sequencing data from The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) derived from normal kidneys and RCC tumors to ascertain the association between γδ T-cell infiltration and anti-cancer immune activity. Notably, RCC-infiltrating CD3low Vγ9Vδ1 T cells with a terminally differentiated effector memory phenotype with up-regulated activation/exhaustion molecules were newly detected as predominant TILs, and the cytotoxic activity of these cells against RCC was confirmed in vitro. In an additional analysis of the TCGA RCC dataset, γδ T-cell enrichment scores correlated strongly with those for CTLs, Th1 cells, "exhausted" T cells, and M1 macrophages, suggesting active involvement of γδ T cells in anti-tumor rather than pro-tumor activity, and Vδ1 cells were more abundant than Vδ2 or Vδ3 cells in RCC tumor samples. Thus, we posit that Vγ9Vδ1 T cells may represent an excellent candidate for adoptive immunotherapy in RCC patients with a high risk of relapse after surgery.

Keywords: adoptive immunotherapy; anti-tumor immunity; gamma-delta T cells; renal cell carcinoma; tumor microenvironment; tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • CD3 Complex / genetics
  • CD3 Complex / immunology*
  • CD3 Complex / metabolism
  • Carcinoma, Renal Cell / genetics
  • Carcinoma, Renal Cell / immunology*
  • Carcinoma, Renal Cell / metabolism
  • Cytokines / immunology
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Female
  • Flow Cytometry / methods
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic / immunology
  • Humans
  • Kidney Neoplasms / genetics
  • Kidney Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Kidney Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Lymphocytes, Tumor-Infiltrating / immunology*
  • Lymphocytes, Tumor-Infiltrating / metabolism
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • RNA-Seq / methods
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, gamma-delta / genetics
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, gamma-delta / immunology*
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, gamma-delta / metabolism
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • Tumor Microenvironment / genetics
  • Tumor Microenvironment / immunology


  • CD3 Complex
  • Cytokines
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, gamma-delta