Research Article

BTN3A1 governs antitumor responses by coordinating αβ and γδ T cells

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Science  21 Aug 2020:
Vol. 369, Issue 6506, pp. 942-949
DOI: 10.1126/science.aay2767

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BTN3A1 governs antitumor responses

T lymphocytes are immune cells that can be activated through their gamma delta (γδ) or alpha beta (αβ) receptors. Both T cell types are found in human cancers, but current immunotherapies do not harness their coordinated antitumor activity. Payne et al. found that BTN3A1 and BTN2A1, two members of the butyrophilin family of proteins, partner to activate the most abundant subset of γδ T cells in peripheral blood. Antibodies targeting BTN3A1 redirect γδ T cells to attack cancer cells while also increasing the activity of tumor-specific αβ T cells. Thus, the killing of established tumors by different T cell subsets can be achieved through BTN3A1 targeting and may provide new strategies for cancer immunotherapy.

Science, this issue p. 942


Gamma delta (γδ) T cells infiltrate most human tumors, but current immunotherapies fail to exploit their in situ major histocompatibility complex–independent tumoricidal potential. Activation of γδ T cells can be elicited by butyrophilin and butyrophilin-like molecules that are structurally similar to the immunosuppressive B7 family members, yet how they regulate and coordinate αβ and γδ T cell responses remains unknown. Here, we report that the butyrophilin BTN3A1 inhibits tumor-reactive αβ T cell receptor activation by preventing segregation of N-glycosylated CD45 from the immune synapse. Notably, CD277-specific antibodies elicit coordinated restoration of αβ T cell effector activity and BTN2A1-dependent γδ lymphocyte cytotoxicity against BTN3A1+ cancer cells, abrogating malignant progression. Targeting BTN3A1 therefore orchestrates cooperative killing of established tumors by αβ and γδ T cells and may present a treatment strategy for tumors resistant to existing immunotherapies.

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