Multimodal stimulation screens reveal unique and shared genes limiting T cell fitness

Cancer Cell. 2024 Apr 8;42(4):623-645.e10. doi: 10.1016/j.ccell.2024.02.016. Epub 2024 Mar 14.


Genes limiting T cell antitumor activity may serve as therapeutic targets. It has not been systematically studied whether there are regulators that uniquely or broadly contribute to T cell fitness. We perform genome-scale CRISPR-Cas9 knockout screens in primary CD8 T cells to uncover genes negatively impacting fitness upon three modes of stimulation: (1) intense, triggering activation-induced cell death (AICD); (2) acute, triggering expansion; (3) chronic, causing dysfunction. Besides established regulators, we uncover genes controlling T cell fitness either specifically or commonly upon differential stimulation. Dap5 ablation, ranking highly in all three screens, increases translation while enhancing tumor killing. Loss of Icam1-mediated homotypic T cell clustering amplifies cell expansion and effector functions after both acute and intense stimulation. Lastly, Ctbp1 inactivation induces functional T cell persistence exclusively upon chronic stimulation. Our results functionally annotate fitness regulators based on their unique or shared contribution to traits limiting T cell antitumor activity.

Keywords: CRISPR-Cas9 screen; Ctbp1; Dap5; Icam1; T cells; activation-induced cell death; cancer immunotherapy; dysfunction; effector function; exhaustion.

MeSH terms

  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes
  • CRISPR-Cas Systems*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms* / genetics