BLIMP1 and NR4A3 transcription factors reciprocally regulate antitumor CAR T cell stemness and exhaustion

Sci Transl Med. 2022 Nov 9;14(670):eabn7336. doi: 10.1126/scitranslmed.abn7336. Epub 2022 Nov 9.


Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells have not induced meaningful clinical responses in solid tumors. Loss of T cell stemness, poor expansion capacity, and exhaustion during prolonged tumor antigen exposure are major causes of CAR T cell therapeutic resistance. Single-cell RNA-sequencing analysis of CAR T cells from a first-in-human trial in metastatic prostate cancer identified two independently validated cell states associated with antitumor potency or lack of efficacy. Low expression of PRDM1, encoding the BLIMP1 transcription factor, defined highly potent TCF7 [encoding T cell factor 1 (TCF1)]-expressing CD8+ CAR T cells, whereas enrichment of HAVCR2 [encoding T cell immunoglobulin and mucin-domain containing-3 (TIM-3)]-expressing CD8+ T cells with elevated PRDM1 was associated with poor outcomes. PRDM1 knockout promoted TCF7-dependent CAR T cell stemness and proliferation, resulting in marginally enhanced leukemia control in mice. However, in the setting of PRDM1 deficiency, a negative epigenetic feedback program of nuclear factor of activated T cells (NFAT)-driven T cell dysfunction was identified. This program was characterized by compensatory up-regulation of NR4A3 and other genes encoding exhaustion-related transcription factors that hampered T cell effector function in solid tumors. Dual knockout of PRDM1 and NR4A3 skewed CAR T cell phenotypes away from TIM-3+CD8+ and toward TCF1+CD8+ to counter exhaustion of tumor-infiltrating CAR T cells and improve antitumor responses, effects that were not achieved with PRDM1 and NR4A3 single knockout alone. These data underscore dual targeting of PRDM1 and NR4A3 as a promising approach to advance adoptive cell immuno-oncotherapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Hepatitis A Virus Cellular Receptor 2 / genetics
  • Hepatitis A Virus Cellular Receptor 2 / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy, Adoptive / methods
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism
  • Receptors, Steroid* / metabolism
  • Receptors, Thyroid Hormone / metabolism
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism


  • Transcription Factors
  • Hepatitis A Virus Cellular Receptor 2
  • NR4A3 protein, human
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Receptors, Steroid
  • Receptors, Thyroid Hormone
  • Nr4a3 protein, mouse
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins