CD16 pre-ligation by defucosylated tumor-targeting mAb sensitizes human NK cells to γc cytokine stimulation via PI3K/mTOR axis

Cristina Capuano, Chiara Pighi, Roberta Maggio, Simone Battella, Stefania Morrone, Gabriella Palmieri, Angela Santoni, Christian Klein, Ricciarda Galandrini

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Obinutuzumab is a glycoengineered tumor-targeting anti-CD20 mAb with a modified crystallizable fragment (Fc) domain designed to increase the affinity for the FcγRIIIA/CD16 receptor, which was recently approved for clinical use in CLL and follicular lymphoma. Here we extend our previous observation that, in human NK cells, the sustained CD16 ligation by obinutuzumab-opsonized targets leads to a markedly enhanced IFN-γ production upon a subsequent cytokine re-stimulation. The increased IFN-γ competence in response to IL-2 or IL-15 is attributable to post-transcriptional regulation, as it does not correlate with the upregulation of IFN-γ mRNA levels. Different from the reference molecule rituximab, we observe that the stimulation with obinutuzumab promotes the upregulation of microRNA (miR)-155 expression. A similar trend was also observed in NK cells from untreated CLL patients stimulated with obinutuzumab-opsonized autologous leukemia. miR-155 upregulation associates with reduced levels of SHIP-1 inositol phosphatase, which acts in constraining PI3K-dependent signals, by virtue of its ability to mediate phosphatidylinositol 3,4,5-trisphosphate (PIP3) de-phosphorylation. Downstream of PI3K, the phosphorylation status of mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) effector molecule, S6, results in amplified response to IL-2 or IL-15 stimulation in obinutuzumab-experienced cells. Importantly, NK cell treatment with the PI3K or mTOR inhibitors, idelalisib and rapamycin, respectively, prevents the enhanced cytokine responsiveness, thus, highlighting the relevance of the PI3K/mTOR axis in CD16-dependent priming. The enhanced IFN-γ competence may be envisaged to potentiate the immunoregulatory role of NK cells in a therapeutic setting.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)501-512
Number of pages12
JournalCancer Immunology and Immunotherapy
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2020


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized/pharmacology
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Immunological/pharmacology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Enzyme Inhibitors/pharmacology
  • Gene Expression/drug effects
  • Humans
  • Interferon-gamma/genetics
  • Interleukin-12/pharmacology
  • Killer Cells, Natural/drug effects
  • Leukemia, Lymphocytic, Chronic, B-Cell/genetics
  • MicroRNAs/genetics
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases/metabolism
  • Phosphatidylinositol-3,4,5-Trisphosphate 5-Phosphatases/genetics
  • Purines/pharmacology
  • Quinazolinones/pharmacology
  • Receptors, IgG/metabolism
  • Sirolimus/pharmacology
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases/antagonists & inhibitors


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