PRDX-1 Supports the Survival and Antitumor Activity of Primary and CAR-Modified NK Cells under Oxidative Stress

Cancer Immunol Res. 2022 Feb;10(2):228-244. doi: 10.1158/2326-6066.CIR-20-1023. Epub 2021 Dec 1.


Oxidative stress, caused by the imbalance between reactive species generation and the dysfunctional capacity of antioxidant defenses, is one of the characteristic features of cancer. Here, we quantified hydrogen peroxide in the tumor microenvironment (TME) and demonstrated that hydrogen peroxide concentrations are elevated in tumor interstitial fluid isolated from murine breast cancers in vivo, when compared with blood or normal subcutaneous fluid. Therefore, we investigated the effects of increased hydrogen peroxide concentration on immune cell functions. NK cells were more susceptible to hydrogen peroxide than T cells or B cells, and by comparing T, B, and NK cells' sensitivities to redox stress and their antioxidant capacities, we identified peroxiredoxin-1 (PRDX1) as a lacking element of NK cells' antioxidative defense. We observed that priming with IL15 protected NK cells' functions in the presence of high hydrogen peroxide and simultaneously upregulated PRDX1 expression. However, the effect of IL15 on PRDX1 expression was transient and strictly dependent on the presence of the cytokine. Therefore, we genetically modified NK cells to stably overexpress PRDX1, which led to increased survival and NK cell activity in redox stress conditions. Finally, we generated PD-L1-CAR NK cells overexpressing PRDX1 that displayed potent antitumor activity against breast cancer cells under oxidative stress. These results demonstrate that hydrogen peroxide, at concentrations detected in the TME, suppresses NK cell function and that genetic modification strategies can improve CAR NK cells' resistance and potency against solid tumors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antioxidants* / metabolism
  • Breast Neoplasms*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Female
  • Hydrogen Peroxide / pharmacology
  • Interleukin-15 / metabolism
  • Killer Cells, Natural
  • Mice
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Peroxiredoxins / genetics
  • Peroxiredoxins / metabolism
  • Tumor Microenvironment


  • Antioxidants
  • Interleukin-15
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Peroxiredoxins
  • Prdx1 protein, mouse