Given the heightened interest in manipulation of co-signaling cascades for cancer immunotherapy, we sought to determine how/whether tumors decorated with therapeutic monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) impact the expression of co-signaling molecules on human NK cells. Stimulation of NK cells with aggregated IgG1 resulted in the upregulation of HAVCR2 – the gene encoding T-cell immunoglobulin and mucin-containing domain (Tim)-3 – known to be involved in the induction of peripheral T cell tolerance. This upregulation of HAVCR2 was recapitulated at the protein level, following NK cell stimulation by either mAb opsonized tumors, recombinant human IgG1 Fc multimer, and/or non-Fc stimuli e.g. IL-12/IL-18. The patterns of Tim-3 expression were temporally distinct from the FcR mediated induction of the co-signaling molecule, 4-1BB (CD137), with Tim-3 increases observed twenty minutes following exposure to Fc multimers and remaining at high levels for at least six hours, while increases in CD137 expression were first observed at the four-hour time point. Importantly, these Tim-3+ NK cells were functionally diverse, as evidenced by the fact that their ability to produce IFN-γ in response to an NK cell responsive tumor was strictly dependent upon the stimuli employed for Tim-3 induction. These data suggest that Tim-3 upregulation is the common end-result of NK cell activation by a variety of unique and overlapping stimuli and is not an independent marker of NK cell exhaustion. Furthermore, our observations potentially explain the diverse functionality attributed to Tim-3+ NK cells and should be considered prior to use of anti-Tim-3 inhibitory mAbs for cancer immunotherapy.
So, E. C., Khaladj-Ghom, A., Ji, Y., Amin, J., Song, Y., Burch, E., … Strome, S. E. (2019). NK cell expression of Tim-3: First impressions matter. Immunobiology, 224(3), 362–370. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.imbio.2019.03.001