The TNF/TNF receptor (TNFR) family comprises various molecules that substantially influence cellular functions of both tumor and immune effector cells. The TNFR family member OX40 has been shown to influence proliferation and differentiation of T cells in autoimmune diseases. Here we studied the yet unknown role of OX40 in acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Substantial surface expression of OX40 was detected on malignant cells of AML patients in 24 of 60 (40%) investigated cases. Expression of OX40 mRNA and protein by leukemic cells was confirmed by analysis of AML cells lines, which displayed substantial surface levels in 6 of 7 investigated cases. Induction of OX40 signaling into AML cells by recombinant OX40L or agonistic antibodies lead to the release of cytokines like IL-10 and TNF which contribute to AML pathophysiology and stimulated metabolic activity (WST test) of the leukemia cells. Moreover, we found that NK cells, which play an important role in anti-tumor immunity and largely contribute to the clinical success of allogeneic stem cell transplantation (SCT) in AML, express OX40 ligand (OX40L) following activation, and OX40L triggering stimulated NK cell reactivity. Functional analyses with OX40 transfectants and OX40-negative controls confirmed that OX40L signaling promotes NK cell cytotoxicity and IFN-γ production. Furthermore, disruption of OX40-OX40L interaction by blocking OX40 F(ab)2 fragments resulted in reduced cytotoxicity and cytokine production of allogenic NK cells, thereby further confirming the stimulatory effect of OX40L on NK cell anti-leukemia reactivity when interacting with its AML-expressed counterpart. Our data suggest that OX40 is involved in disease pathophysiology of AML and identify OX40-OX40L interaction as previously unknown modulator of NK cell immunosurveillance in AML.
No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.
Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.