While the effect of TGF-β on malignant B cells in non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) has been previously evaluated, studies to specifically define the role of TGF-β in tumor immunity in B-cell NHL are limited. We found that soluble TGF-β, secreted by both lymphoma cells and intratumoral T cells, is present in the serum of patients with B-cell NHL. Soluble TGF-β promoted regulatory T (Treg) cells by enhancing expression of Foxp3 in CD4+ T cells and suppressed effector helper T (TH) cells by inhibiting expression of IFN-γ and IL-17. Blockade of the IL-2 signaling pathway diminished the effect of soluble TGF-β on T cell differentiation. Furthermore, we found that membrane-bound TGF-β is expressed specifically on the surface of malignant B cells in B-cell NHL. TGF-β was able to bind to the surface of lymphoma B cells through an interaction with heparan sulfate (HS) but not through the TGF-β receptor. We showed that pretreatment of lymphoma B cells with TGF-β significantly inhibits the proliferation and cytokine production of intratumoral T cells. Taken together, these results suggest that tumor-associated soluble and membrane-bound TGF-β are involved in the regulation of intratumoral T cell differentiation and function in B-cell NHL.
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