Nasopharyngeal carcinoma cells promote regulatory T cell development and suppressive activity via CD70-CD27 interaction

Nat Commun. 2023 Apr 6;14(1):1912. doi: 10.1038/s41467-023-37614-6.


Despite the intense CD8+ T-cell infiltration in the tumor microenvironment of nasopharyngeal carcinoma, anti-PD-1 immunotherapy shows an unsatisfactory response rate in clinical trials, hindered by immunosuppressive signals. To understand how microenvironmental characteristics alter immune homeostasis and limit immunotherapy efficacy in nasopharyngeal carcinoma, here we establish a multi-center single-cell cohort based on public data, containing 357,206 cells from 50 patient samples. We reveal that nasopharyngeal carcinoma cells enhance development and suppressive activity of regulatory T cells via CD70-CD27 interaction. CD70 blocking reverts Treg-mediated suppression and thus reinvigorate CD8+ T-cell immunity. Anti-CD70+ anti-PD-1 therapy is evaluated in xenograft-derived organoids and humanized mice, exhibiting an improved tumor-killing efficacy. Mechanistically, CD70 knockout inhibits a collective lipid signaling network in CD4+ naïve and regulatory T cells involving mitochondrial integrity, cholesterol homeostasis, and fatty acid metabolism. Furthermore, ATAC-Seq delineates that CD70 is transcriptionally upregulated by NFKB2 via an Epstein-Barr virus-dependent epigenetic modification. Our findings identify CD70+ nasopharyngeal carcinoma cells as a metabolic switch that enforces the lipid-driven development, functional specialization and homeostasis of Tregs, leading to immune evasion. This study also demonstrates that CD70 blockade can act synergistically with anti-PD-1 treatment to reinvigorate T-cell immunity against nasopharyngeal carcinoma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CD27 Ligand / genetics
  • CD27 Ligand / metabolism
  • Epstein-Barr Virus Infections*
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Lipids
  • Mice
  • Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma / genetics
  • Nasopharyngeal Neoplasms* / genetics
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory
  • Tumor Microenvironment
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor Receptor Superfamily, Member 7 / metabolism


  • CD27 Ligand
  • Lipids
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor Receptor Superfamily, Member 7
  • CD70 protein, human