Transcriptional Activity and Stability of CD39+CD103+CD8+ T Cells in Human High-Grade Endometrial Cancer

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Workel HH, van Rooij N, Plat A, Spierings DCJ, Fehrmann RSN, Nijman HW. de Bruyn M

Abstract: Tumor-infiltrating CD8+ T cells (TIL) are of the utmost importance in anti-tumor immunity. CD103 defines tumor-resident memory T cells (TRM cells) associated with improved survival and response to immune checkpoint blockade (ICB) across human tumors. Co-expression of CD39 and CD103 marks tumor-specific TRM with enhanced cytolytic potential, suggesting that CD39+CD103+ TRM could be a suitable biomarker for immunotherapy. However, little is known about the transcriptional activity of TRM cells in situ. We analyzed CD39+CD103+ TRM cells sorted from human high-grade endometrial cancers (n = 3) using mRNA sequencing. Cells remained untreated or were incubated with PMA/ionomycin (activation), actinomycin D (a platinum-like chemotherapeutic that inhibits transcription), or a combination of the two. Resting CD39+CD103+ TRM cells were transcriptionally active and expressed a characteristic TRM signature. Activated CD39+CD103+ TRM cells differentially expressed PLEK, TWNK, and FOS, and cytokine genes IFNG, TNF, IL2, CSF2 (GM-CSF), and IL21. Findings were confirmed using qPCR and cytokine production was validated by flow cytometry of cytotoxic TIL. We studied transcript stability and found that PMA-responsive genes and mitochondrial genes were particularly stable. In conclusion, CD39+CD103+ TRM cells are transcriptionally active TRM cells with a polyfunctional, reactivationresponsive repertoire. Secondly, we hypothesize that differential regulation of transcript stability potentiates rapid responses upon TRM reactivation in tumors.