Therapies based on allogenic Natural Killer (NK) cells are becoming increasingly relevant, and our laboratory has produced expanded and activated NK (eNK) cells that are highly cytotoxic against several hematological cancers when used alone or in combination with currently approved therapeutic monoclonal antibodies. In order to produce eNK cells, healthy human donor NK cells undergo a 20-day expansion protocol with IL-2, IL-15 and Epstein–Barr virus (EBV)-transformed lymphoblastoid feeder cells. In order to produce an even more potent eNK-based therapy, we must elucidate the changes our protocol produces within healthy NK cells. To understand the post-transcriptional changes responsible for the increased cytolytic abilities of eNK cells, we performed microRNA (miRNA) expression analysis on purified NK cells from day 0 and day 20 of the protocol using quantitative reverse transcription PCR (RT-qPCR). Of the 384 miRNAs profiled, we observed changes in the expression of 64 miRNAs, with especially significant changes in 7 of them. The up-regulated miRNAs of note were miRs-146a, -124, -34a, and -10a, which are key in the regulation of cell survival through the modulation of pro-apoptotic genes such as PUMA. The down-regulation of miRs-199a, -223, and -340 was also detected and is associated with the promotion of NK cell cytotoxicity. We validated our analysis using immunoblot and flow cytometry studies on specific downstream targets of both up- and down-regulated miRNAs such as PUMA and Granzyme B. These results corroborate the functional importance of the described miRNA expression patterns and show the wide variety of changes that occur in eNK cells at day 20.
Cytotoxicity; Immunotherapy; miRNA
Reina-Ortiz C, Mozas MP, Ovelleiro D, Gao F, Villalba M, Anel A. Dynamic Changes in miRNA Expression during the Generation of Expanded and Activated NK Cells. Int J Mol Sci. 2023 Aug 31;24(17):13556.
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