Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Medical Doctor (MD)

First Advisor

Carole Berger


The malignant cells of cutaneous T cell lymphoma (CTCL) display immunogenic peptides derived from the clonal T cell receptor (TCR) providing an attractive model for refinement of anti-tumor immunization methodology. To produce a clinically meaningful anti-tumor response, induction of cytotoxic anti-CTCL cells must be maximized while suppressive T regulatory cells (Treg) should be minimized. We have demonstrated that engulfment of apoptotic CTCL cells by dendritic cells (DC) can lead to either CD8 anti-CTCL responses or immunosuppressive Treg induction. Treg generation is favored when the number of apoptotic cells available for ingestion is high. In this study, we sought to determine whether the balance between immunity and immunosuppression could be shifted towards a CD8 anti-CTCL response by lowering the ratio of apoptotic CTCL cells available for DC ingestion. CTCL cell apoptosis was produced by engagement of the TCR by anti-CD3 antibody affixed to magnetic beads. The physical perturbation inherent in passage through a separation column induced monocytes to differentiate into DC, demonstrated by increased expression of class II and CD86 and decreased expression of the monocyte marker CD14. The immature DC internalized and processed apoptotic CTCL cells and could potentially present the tumor-derived peptides in the context of MHC class I and II. As the number of apoptotic cells increased, there was a dose-dependent increase in the expression of Treg markers CTLA-4, CD25, and FoxP3, with a ratio of apoptotic cell/DC loading of >10:1 corresponding to the greatest Treg induction. These inducible phenotypic Treg also functionally inhibited CD8-mediated perforin expression in vitro. At lower levels of apoptotic cell/DC loading of <5:1, there was an expansion of the CD8 T cell compartment with increased perforin expression and increased CTCL cell death, indicating anti-tumor activity. These findings demonstrate that the ratio of apoptotic cells supplied to DC is an important determinant of whether CD8 anti-tumor immunity or immunosuppression is generated.