Invariant natural killer T (iNKT) cells comprise a lineage of CD1d-restricted glycolipid-reactive T lymphocytes with important roles in host immunity to cancer. iNKT cells indirectly participate in anti-tumor responses by inducing dendritic cell maturation and producing cytokines that promote tumor clearance by CD8+ T and NK cells. Although iNKT cells thereby act as potent cellular adjuvants, it is less clear whether they directly control the growth of tumors. To gain insights into the direct contribution of iNKT cells to tumor immune surveillance, we developed in vitro and in vivo systems to selectively examine the anti-tumor activity of iNKT cells in the absence of other cytolytic effectors. Using the EL4 T-lymphoma cell line as a model, we find that iNKT cells exert robust and specific lysis of tumor cells in vitro in a manner that is differentially induced by iNKT cell agonists of varying TCR affinities, such as OCH, α-galactosyl ceramide and PBS44. In vitro blockade of CD1d-mediated lipid antigen presentation, disruption of T cell receptor (TCR) signaling, or loss of perforin expression significantly reduce iNKT cell killing. Consistent with these findings, iNKT cell reconstitution of T, B, and NK cell-deficient mice slows EL4 growth in vivo via TCR-CD1d and perforin-dependent mechanisms. Together, these observations establish that iNKT cells are sufficient to control the growth of T-lymphoma in vitro and in vivo. They also suggest that the induction of iNKT cell cytotoxic responses in situ might serve as a more effective strategy to prevent and/or treat CD1d+ cancers, such as T-lymphoma.
- Received July 21, 2013.
- Revision received September 30, 2013.
- Accepted October 15, 2013.
- Copyright © 2013, American Association for Cancer Research.