T cells and T cell tumors efficiently generate antigen-specific cytotoxic T cell immunity when modified with an NKT ligand

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Various Invariant NKT (iNKT) cell ligands have been shown as potent adjuvants in boosting T cell reactivates to antigens on professional APC. Non-professional APC, such as T cells, also co-expressing MHC class I and CD1d, have been unattractive cell vaccine carriers due to their poor immunogenicity. Here, we report that T cells as well as T cell lymphoma can efficiently generate antigen-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL) responses in mice in vivo, when formulated to present iNKT ligand α-galactosylceramide (αGC) on their surface CD1d. Vaccination with αGC-pulsed EG-7 T-cell lymphoma induced tumor-specific CTL response and suppressed the growth of EG-7 in a CD8 T cell-dependent manner. Injection of αGC-loaded CD4 T cells in mice efficiently activated iNKT cells in vivo. While T cells loaded with a class I-restricted peptide induced proliferation but not effector differentiation of antigen-specific CD8 T cells, injection of T cells co-pulsed with αGC strongly induced IFNγ and Granzyme B expression in T cells and complete lysis of target cells in vivo. Presentation of αGC and peptide on the same cells was required for optimal CTL response and vaccinating T cells appeared to directly stimulate both iNKT and cytotoxic CD8 T cells. Of note, the generation of this cytotoxic T cell response was independent of IL-4, IFNγ, IL-12, IL-21 and costimulation. Our data indicate that iNKT cell can license a non-professional APC to directly trigger antigen-specific cytotoxic T cell responses, which provides an alternative cellular vaccine strategy against tumors.

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