Author(s): Sndergaard H, Coquet JM, Uldrich AP, McLaughlin N, Godfrey DI,
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Abstract IL-21 has antitumor activity through actions on NK cells and CD8(+) T cells, and is currently in clinical development for the treatment of cancer. However, no studies have addressed the role of endogenous IL-21 in tumor immunity. In this study, we have studied both primary and secondary immune responses in IL-21(-/-) and IL-21R(-/-) mice against several experimental tumors. We found intact immune surveillance toward methylcholanthrene-induced sarcomas in IL-21(-/-) and IL-21R(-/-) mice compared with wild-type mice and B16 melanomas showed equal growth kinetics and development of lung metastases. IL-21R(-/-) mice showed competent NK cell-mediated rejection of NKG2D ligand (Rae1beta) expressing H-2b(-) RMAS lymphomas and sustained transition to CD8(+) T cell-dependent memory against H-2b(+) RMA lymphomas. alpha-Galactosylceramide stimulation showed equal expansion and activation of NKT and NK cells and mounted a powerful antitumor response in the absence of IL-21 signaling, despite reduced expression of granzyme B in NKT, NK, and CD8(+) T cells. Surprisingly, host IL-21 significantly restricted the expansion of Ag-specific CD8(+) T cells and inhibited primary CD8(+) T cell immunity against OVA-expressing EG7 lymphomas, as well as the secondary expansion of memory CD8(+) T cells. However, host IL-21 did not alter the growth of less immunogenic MC38 colon carcinomas with dim OVA expression. Overall, our results show that endogenous IL-21/IL-21R is not required for NK, NKT, and CD8(+) T cell-mediated tumor immunity, but restricts Ag-specific CD8(+) T cell expansion and rejection of immunogenic tumors, indicating novel immunosuppressive actions of this cytokine.
This article was published in J Immunol
and referenced in Journal of Clinical & Cellular Immunology