PD-1 expression is a hallmark of both early antigen-specific T cell activation and later chronic stimulation, suggesting key roles in both naive T cell priming and memory T cell responses. Although significant similarities exist between T cells and NK cells, there are critical differences in their biology and functions reflecting their respective adaptive and innate immune effector functions. Expression of PD-1 on NK cells is controversial despite rapid incorporation into clinical cancer trials. Our objective was to stringently and comprehensively assess expression of PD-1 on both mouse and human NK cells under multiple conditions and using a variety of readouts. We evaluated NK cells from primary human tumor samples, after ex vivo culturing, and from multiple mouse tumor and viral models using flow cytometry, quantitative reverse-transcriptase PCR (qRT-PCR), and RNA-Seq for PD-1 expression. We demonstrate that, under multiple conditions, human and mouse NK cells consistently lack PD-1 expression despite the marked upregulation of other activation/regulatory markers, such as TIGIT. This was in marked contrast to T cells, which were far more prominent within all tumors and expressed PD-1. These data have important implications when attempting to discern NK from T cell effects and to determine whether PD-1 targeting can be expected to have direct effects on NK cell functions.


Sean J. Judge, Cordelia Dunai, Ethan G. Aguilar, Sarah C. Vick, Ian R. Sturgill, Lam T. Khuat, Kevin M. Stoffel, Jonathan Van Dyke, Dan L. Longo, Morgan A. Darrow, Stephen K. Anderson, Bruce R. Blazar, Arta M. Monjazeb, Jonathan S. Serody, Robert J. Canter, William J. Murphy


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