Early Reconstitution of NK and γδ T Cells and Its Implication for the Design of Post-Transplant Immunotherapy

Moniek A. de Witte, Dhifaf Sarhan, Zachary Davis, Martin Felices, Daniel A. Vallera, Peter Hinderlie, Julie Curtsinger, Sarah Cooley, John Wagner, Jurgen Kuball, Jeffrey S. Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Relapse is the most frequent cause of treatment failure after allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (allo-HSCT). Natural killer (NK) cells and γδ T cells reconstitute early after allo-HSCT, contribute to tumor immunosurveillance via major histocompatibility complex–independent mechanisms and do not induce graft-versus-host disease. Here we performed a quantitative and qualitative analysis of the NK and γδ T cell repertoire in healthy individuals, recipients of HLA-matched sibling or unrelated donor allo-HSCT (MSD/MUD-HSCT) and umbilical cord blood-HSCT (UCB-HSCT). NK cells are present at high frequencies in all allo-HSCT recipients. Immune reconstitution (IR) of vδ2 + cells depended on stem cell source. In MSD/MUD-HSCT recipients, vδ2 + comprise up to 8% of the total lymphocyte pool, whereas vδ2 + T cells are barely detectable in UCB-HSCT recipients. Vδ1 + IR was driven by CMV reactivation and was comparable between MSD/MUD-HSCT and UCB-HSCT. Strategies to augment NK cell mediated tumor responses, similar to IL-15 and antibodies, also induced vδ2 + T cell responses against a variety of different tumor targets. Vδ1 + γδ T cells were induced less by these same stimuli. We also identified elevated expression of the checkpoint inhibitory molecule TIGIT (T cell Ig and ITIM domain), which is also observed on tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes and epidermal γδ T cells. Collectively, these data show multiple strategies that can result in a synergized NK and γδ T cell antitumor response. In the light of recent developments of low-toxicity allo-HSCT platforms, these interventions may contribute to the prevention of early relapse.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1152-1162
Number of pages11
JournalBiology of Blood and Marrow Transplantation
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the following NIH grants: P01 CA111412 (SC, MF, DAV, JSM), P01 CA65493 (JEW, MF, JSM), R35 CA197292 (MF, JSM), R01 HL122216 (MF, JSM).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 The American Society for Blood and Marrow Transplantation


  • Gamma/delta T cells
  • Hematopoietic transplantation
  • Immune reconstitution
  • NK cells


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