γδ T cells stimulated by phosphoantigens (pAg) are potent effectors that secrete Th1 cytokines and kill tumor cells. Consequently, they are considered candidates for use in cancer immunotherapy. However, they have proven only moderately effective in several clinical trials. We studied the consequences of pAg-stimulated γδ T-cell interactions with natural killer (NK) cells and CD8+ T cells, major innate and adaptive effectors, respectively. We found that pAg-stimulated γδ T cells suppressed NK-cell responses to “missing-self” but had no effect on antigen-specific CD8+ T-cell responses. Extensive analysis of the secreted cytokines showed that pAg-stimulated γδ T cells had a proinflammatory profile. CMV-pp65–specific CD8+ T cells primed with pAg-stimulated γδ T cells showed little effect on responses to pp65-loaded target cells. By contrast, NK cells primed similarly with γδ T cells had impaired capacity to degranulate and produce IFNγ in response to HLA class I–deficient targets. This effect depended on BTN3A1 and required direct contact between NK cells and γδ T cells. γδ T-cell priming of NK cells also led to a downregulation of NKG2D and NKp44 on NK cells. Every NK-cell subset was affected by γδ T cell–mediated immunosuppression, but the strongest effect was on KIR+NKG2A NK cells. We therefore report a previously unknown function for γδ T cells, as brakes of NK-cell responses to “missing-self.” This provides a new perspective for optimizing the use of γδ T cells in cancer immunotherapy and for assessing their role in immune responses to pAg-producing pathogens.

See related Spotlight by Kabelitz, p. 543.

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