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CD160 expression on CD8+ T cells is associated with active effector responses but limited activation potential in pancreatic cancer


CD160 is an Ig-like glycoprotein expressed by the majority of circulating natural killer cells and γδ T cells. Whether CD160 could regulate CD8+ T-cell functions remains unknown. In this study, we investigated the effects of CD160 on CD8+ T cells in pancreatic cancer. First, we found that the frequency of PD-1+ cells was comparable between CD160+ and CD160CD8+ T cells, with the former presenting significantly higher PD-1 expression level. In contrast, the frequency of TIM-3+ cells was higher among CD160+ cells but the expression level was comparable between CD160+ and CD160CD8+ T cells. The IFN-γ and IL-2-expressing CD8+ T cells, directly ex vivo, were highly enriched in the CD160+ subset. However, when CD160+ and CD160CD8+ T cells were stimulated, the proliferation levels of CD160+ and CD160 cells were initially comparable, but were significantly lower in CD160+CD8+ T cells than in CD160CD8+ T cells later on. The IFN-γ and IL-2 transcription levels were initially higher in CD160+CD8+ T cells, but eventually reduced in CD160+CD8+ T cells compared to CD160CD8+ T cells. Also, CD160+CD8+ T cells presented lower cytotoxic capacity than CD160CD8+ T cells. Interestingly, we observed that tumor-infiltrating CD8+ T cells were significantly enriched with the CD160+ subset in pancreatic cancer patients. In addition, patients with higher frequencies of tumor CD160+CD8+ T cells presented lower survival. Overall, these data demonstrated that tumor-infiltrating CD8+ T cells were enriched with the CD160+ subset in pancreatic cancer, with active effector responses directly ex vivo but limited potential for further activation.

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B and T lymphocyte attenuator


Geometric mead fluorescence intensity


Granzyme B


Herpes virus entry mediator




Recombinant human


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Author information

SL, WZ, KL, and YW conceived and designed the study; SL and WZ conducted experiments; SL, WZ, and YW analyzed data; SL, WZ, and KL drafted the manuscript; YW supervised the study and reviewed the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Correspondence to Yingchao Wang.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical standards

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments. All protocols were reviewed and approved by the Ethics Committee of the First Hospital of Jilin University (160116).

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All patients provided written informed consent at the time recruitment. All patients gave the consent to the use of data and materials for research and publication or consent to this particular study.

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Capan-2 cells were purchased from the American Type Culture Collection.

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Liu, S., Zhang, W., Liu, K. et al. CD160 expression on CD8+ T cells is associated with active effector responses but limited activation potential in pancreatic cancer. Cancer Immunol Immunother (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00262-020-02500-3

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  • CD160
  • CD8+ T cells
  • Effector responses
  • Pancreatic cancer