Stimulatory and inhibitory activity of STING ligands on tumor-reactive human gamma/delta T cells

Oncoimmunology. 2022 Feb 1;11(1):2030021. doi: 10.1080/2162402X.2022.2030021. eCollection 2022.


Ligands for Stimulator of Interferon Genes (STING) receptor are under investigation as adjuvants in cancer therapy. Multiple effects have been described, including induction of immunogenic cell death and enhancement of CD8 T-cell mediated anti-tumor immunity. However, the potential effects of STING ligands on activation and effector functions of tumor-reactive human γδ T cells have not yet been investigated. We observed that cyclic dinucleotide as well as novel non-dinucleotide STING ligands diABZI and MSA-2 co-stimulated cytokine induction in Vδ2 T cells within peripheral blood mononuclear cells but simultaneously inhibited their proliferative expansion in response to the aminobisphosphonate Zoledronate and to γδ T-cell specific phosphoantigen. In purified γδ T cells, STING ligands co-stimulated cytokine induction but required the presence of monocytes. STING ligands strongly stimulated IL-1β and TNF-α secretion in monocytes and co-stimulated cytokine induction in short-term expanded Vδ2 γδ T-cell lines. Simultaneously, massive cell death was triggered in both cell populations. Activation of STING as revealed by TBK1/IRF3 phosphorylation and IP-10 secretion varied among STING-expressing tumor cells. STING ligands modulated tumor cell killing by Vδ2 T cells as analyzed in Real-Time Cell Analyzer to variable degree, depending on the tumor target and time course kinetics. Our study reveals complex regulatory effects of STING ligands on human γδ T cells in vitro. These results help to define conditions where STING ligands might boost the efficacy of γδ T cell immunotherapy in vivo.

Keywords: Cytotoxicity; STING ligands; gammadelta T cells; interferon-gamma; monocytes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Intraepithelial Lymphocytes* / metabolism
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear* / metabolism
  • Ligands
  • Membrane Proteins*
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, gamma-delta


  • Cytokines
  • Ligands
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, gamma-delta
  • STING1 protein, human

Grants and funding

This study was supported by a grant from the Wilhelm-Sander Stiftung to DK (2018.045.2) and by a grant from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (FOR2779 WE 3559/6-2) to DW. RS and MZ were supported by long-term fellowships from the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD).