PD-1 expression defines two distinct T-cell sub-populations in follicular lymphoma that differentially impact patient survival

Z. Z. Yang, D. M. Grote, S. C. Ziesmer, B. Xiu, Anne J Novak, Stephen Maxted Ansell

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67 Scopus citations


To determine the biological and clinical relevance of programmed death 1 (PD-1) in follicular lymphoma (FL), we characterized PD-1<sup>+</sup> T-cell subsets and assessed their biological function as well as potential clinical impact. We found that PD-1 is expressed on intratumoral CD4<sup>+</sup> T cells with both bright and dim intensity, representing two different sub-populations of cells. By immunohistochemistry, we found that CD4<sup>+</sup>PD-1<sup>high</sup> T cells predominantly reside in the lymph node follicles, while PD-1<sup>low</sup> T cells are mainly located in an interfollicular pattern. Intratumoral CD4<sup>+</sup>PD-1<sup>high</sup> T cells have a TFH cell phenotype, express CXCR5, secrete IL-21 and are BCL-6 positive with no TIM-3 expression. In contrast, CD4<sup>+</sup>PD-1<sup>low</sup> T cells have an exhausted phenotype, express TIM-3 and do not express BCL-6 and CXCR5. Functionally, CD4<sup>+</sup>PD-1<sup>high</sup> T cells actively supported B-cell growth, while CD4<sup>+</sup>PD-1<sup>low</sup> T cells displayed a reduced cytokine production and cell-signal transduction. Clinically, we observed that the numbers of CD4<sup>+</sup> or CD8<sup>+</sup> PD-1<sup>low</sup> T cells significantly correlate with a reduced overall survival in FL patients (P = 0.007 and 0.04 respectively; n = 32). In contrast, the number of CD4<sup>+</sup>PD-1<sup>high</sup> T cells was not associated with patient outcome. Taken together, these results indicated that PD-1 expression defines two sub-populations with distinct functions that differentially impact patient outcome in FL.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere281
JournalBlood Cancer Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Hematology

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