To characterize immune suppression in lymphoma, thymocyte selection-associated high mobility group box protein (TOX) expression and co-expression with programmed cell death receptor-1 (PD-1), T cell immunoglobulin mucin-domain-containing-3 (Tim-3), and CD244 in CD3+, CD4+, CD8+, and regulatory T (Treg) cells from patients with lymphomas were analyzed.
TOX expression and co-expression with PD-1, Tim-3, and CD244 in CD3+, CD4+, Treg, and CD8+ T cells were analyzed by multi-color fluorescent flow cytometry using peripheral blood (PB) from 13 newly diagnosed, untreated lymphoma patients, and 11 healthy individuals.
An increased percentage of TOX+ CD3+, CD4+, and CD8+ T cells was found in PB from patients with B cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (B-NHL) in comparison with healthy controls. Moreover, TOX+PD-1+ and TOX+Tim-3+ double-positive T cells increased among the CD3+, CD4+, and CD8+T cell populations in the B-NHL group. There was apparent heterogeneity in TOX expression and co-expression with PD-1, Tim-3, and CD244 in CD3+, CD4+, and CD8+ T cells in different lymphoma patients. In addition, the percentage of CD4+CD25+FoxP3+ T cells (Treg) among the CD3+ and CD4+ T cells significantly increased, and the number of TOX+ and TOX+PD-1+ Treg cells also significantly increased in the B-NHL group.
Higher expression of TOX concurrent with PD-1, Tim-3, and CD244 in T cells from patients with B-NHL may contribute to T cell exhaustion and impair their special anti-tumor T cell activity. TOX may be considered a potential target for reversing T cell exhaustion and improving T cell function in hematological malignancies.