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Harnessing the IL-21-BATF Pathway in the CD8+ T Cell Anti-Tumor Response. Cancers (Basel) 2021 Mar 12;13(6)



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Pubmed Central ID




Scopus ID

2-s2.0-85102393382   1 Citation


In cancer, CD8+ T cells enter a dysfunctional state which prevents them from effectively targeting and killing tumor cells. Tumor-infiltrating CD8+ T cells consist of a heterogeneous population of memory-like progenitor, effector, and terminally exhausted cells that exhibit differing functional and self-renewal capacities. Our recently published work has shown that interleukin (IL)-21-producing CD4+ T cells help to generate effector CD8+ T cells within the tumor, which results in enhanced tumor control. However, the molecular mechanisms by which CD4+ helper T cells regulate the differentiation of effector CD8+ T cells are not well understood. In this study, we found that Basic Leucine Zipper ATF-Like Transcription Factor (BATF), a transcription factor downstream of IL-21 signaling, is critical to maintain CD8+ T cell effector function within the tumor. Using mixed bone marrow chimeras, we demonstrated that CD8+ T cell-specific deletion of BATF resulted in impaired tumor control. In contrast, overexpressing BATF in CD8+ T cells enhanced effector function and resulted in improved tumor control, bypassing the need for CD4+ helper T cells. Transcriptomic analyses revealed that BATF-overexpressing CD8+ T cells had increased expression of costimulatory receptors, effector molecules, and transcriptional regulators, which may contribute to their enhanced activation and effector function. Taken together, our study unravels a previously unappreciated CD4+ T cell-derived IL-21-BATF axis that could provide therapeutic insights to enhance effector CD8+ T cell function to fight cancer.

Author List

Topchyan P, Xin G, Chen Y, Zheng S, Burns R, Shen J, Kasmani MY, Kudek M, Yang N, Cui W


Weiguo Cui PhD Associate Professor in the Microbiology and Immunology department at Medical College of Wisconsin
Matthew Kudek MD Assistant Professor in the Pediatrics department at Medical College of Wisconsin