TCF-1 regulates NKG2D expression on CD8 T cells during anti-tumor responses

Cancer Immunol Immunother. 2023 Jun;72(6):1581-1601. doi: 10.1007/s00262-022-03323-0. Epub 2022 Dec 23.


Cancer immunotherapy relies on improving T cell effector functions against malignancies, but despite the identification of several key transcription factors (TFs), the biological functions of these TFs are not entirely understood. We developed and utilized a novel, clinically relevant murine model to dissect the functional properties of crucial T cell transcription factors during anti-tumor responses. Our data showed that the loss of TCF-1 in CD8 T cells also leads to loss of key stimulatory molecules such as CD28. Our data showed that TCF-1 suppresses surface NKG2D expression on naïve and activated CD8 T cells via key transcriptional factors Eomes and T-bet. Using both in vitro and in vivo models, we uncovered how TCF-1 regulates critical molecules responsible for peripheral CD8 T cell effector functions. Finally, our unique genetic and molecular approaches suggested that TCF-1 also differentially regulates essential kinases. These kinases, including LCK, LAT, ITK, PLC-γ1, P65, ERKI/II, and JAK/STATs, are required for peripheral CD8 T cell persistent function during alloimmunity. Overall, our molecular and bioinformatics data demonstrate the mechanism by which TCF-1 modulated several critical aspects of T cell function during CD8 T cell response to cancer. Summary Figure: TCF-1 is required for persistent function of CD8 T cells but dispensable for anti-tumor response. Here, we have utilized a novel mouse model that lacks TCF-1 specifically on CD8 T cells for an allogeneic transplant model. We uncovered a molecular mechanism of how TCF-1 regulates key signaling pathways at both transcriptomic and protein levels. These key molecules included LCK, LAT, ITK, PLC-γ1, p65, ERK I/II, and JAK/STAT signaling. Next, we showed that the lack of TCF-1 impacted phenotype, proinflammatory cytokine production, chemokine expression, and T cell activation. We provided clinical evidence for how these changes impact GVHD target organs (skin, small intestine, and liver). Finally, we provided evidence that TCF-1 regulates NKG2D expression on mouse naïve and activated CD8 T cells. We have shown that CD8 T cells from TCF-1 cKO mice mediate cytolytic functions via NKG2D.

Keywords: Eomes and T-bet; GVHD; GVL; NKG2D; TCF-1.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes
  • Gene Expression
  • Mice
  • NK Cell Lectin-Like Receptor Subfamily K*
  • Neoplasms* / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction
  • T Cell Transcription Factor 1*


  • NK Cell Lectin-Like Receptor Subfamily K
  • T Cell Transcription Factor 1
  • Klrk1 protein, mouse