Targeting the αv integrin/TGF-β axis improves natural killer cell function against glioblastoma stem cells

Hila Shaim, Mayra Shanley, Rafet Basar, May Daher, Joy Gumin, Daniel B. Zamler, Nadima Uprety, Fang Wang, Yuefan Huang, Konrad Gabrusiewicz, Qi Miao, Jinzhuang Dou, Abdullah Alsuliman, Lucila N. Kerbauy, Sunil Acharya, Vakul Mohanty, Mayela Mendt, Sufang Li, Jun Jun Lu, Jun WeiNatalie W. Fowlkes, Elif Gokdemir, Emily L. Ensley, Mecit Kaplan, Cynthia Kassab, Li Li, Gonca Ozcan, Pinaki P. Banerjee, Yifei Shen, April L. Gilbert, Corry M. Jones, Mustafa Bdiwi, Ana K. Nunez-Cortes, Enli Liu, Jun Yu, Nobuhiko Imahashi, Luis Muniz-Feliciano, Ye Li, Jian Hu, Giulio Draetta, David Marin, Dihua Yu, Stephan Mielke, Matthias Eyrich, Richard E. Champlin, Ken Chen, Frederick F. Lang, Elizabeth J. Shpall, Amy B. Heimberger, Katayoun Rezvani*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

87 Scopus citations


Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), the most aggressive brain cancer, recurs because glioblastoma stem cells (GSCs) are resistant to all standard therapies. We showed that GSCs, but not normal astrocytes, are sensitive to lysis by healthy allogeneic natural killer (NK) cells in vitro. Mass cytometry and single-cell RNA sequencing of primary tumor samples revealed that GBM tumor–infiltrating NK cells acquired an altered phenotype associated with impaired lytic function relative to matched peripheral blood NK cells from patients with GBM or healthy donors. We attributed this immune evasion tactic to direct cell-to-cell contact between GSCs and NK cells via αv integrin–mediated TGF-β activation. Treatment of GSC-engrafted mice with allogeneic NK cells in combination with inhibitors of integrin or TGF-β signaling or with TGFBR2 gene–edited allogeneic NK cells prevented GSC-induced NK cell dysfunction and tumor growth. These findings reveal an important mechanism of NK cell immune evasion by GSCs and suggest the αv integrin/TGF-β axis as a potentially useful therapeutic target in GBM.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere142116
JournalJournal of Clinical Investigation
Issue number14
StatePublished - Jul 2021
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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