TOX is expressed by exhausted and polyfunctional human effector memory CD8(+) T cells

TOX is expressed by exhausted and polyfunctional human effector memory CD8(+) T cells

Online publication: 03/07/2020 Printed publication: 3 July 2020 Journal: Science Immunology

Abstract:

CD8+ T cell exhaustion is a hallmark of many cancers and chronic infections. In mice, T cell factor 1 (TCF-1) maintains exhausted CD8+ T cell responses, whereas thymocyte selection-associated HMG box (TOX) is required for the epigenetic remodeling and survival of exhausted CD8+ T cells. However, it has remained unclear to what extent these transcription factors play analogous roles in humans. In this study, we mapped the expression of TOX and TCF-1 as a function of differentiation and specificity in the human CD8+ T cell landscape. Here, we demonstrate that circulating TOX+ CD8+ T cells exist in most humans, but that TOX is not exclusively associated with exhaustion. Effector memory CD8+ T cells generally expressed TOX, whereas naive and early-differentiated memory CD8+ T cells generally expressed TCF-1. Cytolytic gene and protein expression signatures were also defined by the expression of TOX. In the context of a relentless immune challenge, exhausted HIV-specific CD8+ T cells commonly expressed TOX, often in clusters with various activation markers and inhibitory receptors, and expressed less TCF-1. However, polyfunctional memory CD8+ T cells specific for cytomegalovirus (CMV) or Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) also expressed TOX, either with or without TCF-1. A similar phenotype was observed among HIV-specific CD8+ T cells from individuals who maintained exceptional immune control of viral replication. Collectively, these data demonstrate that TOX is expressed by most circulating effector memory CD8+ T cell subsets and not exclusively linked to exhaustion.

Authors: Sekine T, Perez-Potti A, Nguyen S, Gorin JB, Wu VH, Gostick E, Llewellyn-Lacey S, Hammer Q, Falck-Jones S, Vangeti S, Yu M, Smed-Sörensen A, Gaballa A, Uhlin M, Sandberg JK, Brander C, Nowak P, Goepfert PA, Price DA, Betts MR, Buggert M

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