CD4+ Tregs impede T cell responses to tumors. They express multiple inhibitory receptors that support their suppressive functions, including T cell Ig and ITIM domain (TIGIT). In melanoma patients, we show that Tregs exhibit increased TIGIT expression and decreased expression of its competing costimulatory receptor CD226 as compared with CD4+ effector T cells, resulting in an increased TIGIT/CD226 ratio. Tregs failed to upregulate CD226 upon T cell activation. TIGIT+ Tregs are highly suppressive, stable, and enriched in tumors. TIGIT and CD226 oppose each other to augment or disrupt, respectively, Treg suppression and stability. A high TIGIT/CD226 ratio in Tregs correlates with increased Treg frequencies in tumors and poor clinical outcome upon immune checkpoint blockade. Altogether, our findings show that a high TIGIT/CD226 ratio in Tregs regulates their suppressive function and stability in melanoma. They provide the rationale for novel immunotherapies to activate CD226 in Tregs together with TIGIT blockade to counteract Treg suppression in cancer patients.
Julien Fourcade, Zhaojun Sun, Joe-Marc Chauvin, Mignane Ka, Diwakar Davar, Ornella Pagliano, Hong Wang, Sofiane Saada, Carmine Menna, Rada Amin, Cindy Sander, John M. Kirkwood, Alan J. Korman, Hassane M. Zarour