Wnt3a neutralization enhances T-cell responses through indirect mechanisms and restrains tumor growth

Alessandro Gulino, Claudio Tripodo, Chiara Focaccetti, Ilenia Pacella, Micol Rava, Stefano Miacci, Ilenia Cammarata, Silvia Piconese, Vincenzo Barnaba

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


The Wnt/b-catenin pathway regulates T-cell functions, including the repression of effector functions to the advantage of memory development via Tcf1. In a companion study, we demonstrate that, in human cancers, Wnt3a/b-catenin signaling maintains tumor-infiltrating T cells in a partially exhausted status. Here, we have investigated the effects of Wnt3a neutralization in vivo in a mouse tumor model. Abundant Wnt3a was released, mostly by stromal cells, in the tumor microenvironment. We tested whether Wnt3a neutralization in vivo could rescue the effector capacity of tumor-infiltrating T cells, by administering an antibody to Wnt3a to tumor-bearing mice. This therapy restrained tumor growth and favored the expansion of tumor antigen–specific CD8þ effector memory T cells with increased expression of Tbet and IFNg and reduced expression of Tcf1. However, the effect was not attributable to the interruption of T-cell–intrinsic b-catenin signaling, because Wnt3a/b-catenin activation correlated with enhanced, not reduced, T-cell effector functions both ex vivo and in vitro. Adoptively transferred CD8þ T cells, not directly exposed to the anti-Wnt3a antibody but infiltrating previously Wnt3a-neutralized tumors, also showed improved functions. The rescue of T-cell response was thus secondary to T-cell–extrinsic changes that likely involved dendritic cells. Indeed, tumor-derived Wnt3a strongly suppressed dendritic cell maturation in vitro, and anti-Wnt3a treatment rescued dendritic cell activities in vivo. Our results clarify the function of the Wnt3a/b-catenin pathway in antitumor effector T cells and suggest that Wnt3a neutralization might be a promising immunotherapy for rescuing dendritic cell activities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)953-964
Number of pages12
JournalCancer immunology research
Publication statusPublished - 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Immunology
  • Cancer Research


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