Tumor-infiltrating Tim-3+ T cells proliferate avidly except when PD-1 is co-expressed: Evidence for intracellular cross talk

Jing Li, Gulidanna Shayan, Lyndsay Avery, Hyun Bae Jie, Neil Gildener-Leapman, Nicole Schmitt, Bin Feng Lu, Lawrence P. Kane, Robert L. Ferris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Programmed Death 1 (PD-1) and T cell Ig and mucin domain-3 protein (Tim-3) are immune checkpoint receptors highly expressed on tumor infiltrating T lymphocytes (TIL). PD-1 inhibits T cell activation and type-1 T cell responses, while Tim-3 is proposed to mark more extensively exhausted cells, although the mechanisms underlying Tim-3 function are not clear. Trials of anti-PD-1 therapy have identified a large subset of non-responder patients, likely due to expression of alternative checkpoint molecules like Tim-3. We investigated the phenotypic and functional characteristics of T cells with differential expression of PD-1 (high/low) and Tim-3 (positive/negative), using TIL directly isolated from head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCC). Unexpectedly, we found that expression of Tim-3 alone does not necessarily mark TIL as dysfunctional/exhausted. In Tim-3-TIL, PD-1 levels correlate with T cell dysfunction, with a PD-1low/intermed phenotype identifying recently activated and still functional cells, whereas PD-1hiTim-3 T cells are actually exhausted. Nonetheless, PD-1intermed cells are still potently suppressed by PD-L1. PD-1 expression was associated with reduced phosphorylation of ribosomal protein S6 (pS6), whereas Tim-3 expression was associated with increased pS6. Using a novel mouse model for inducible Tim-3 expression, we confirmed that expression of Tim-3 does not necessarily render T cells refractory to further activation. These results suggest the existence of PD-1 and Tim-3 crosstalk in regulating antitumor T cell responses, with important implications for anti-PD-1 immunotherapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2 2016


  • Activation
  • PD-1
  • TIL
  • Tim-3
  • exhaustion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Oncology


Dive into the research topics of 'Tumor-infiltrating Tim-3+ T cells proliferate avidly except when PD-1 is co-expressed: Evidence for intracellular cross talk'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this