EphB receptors trigger Akt activation and suppress Fas receptor-induced apoptosis in malignant T lymphocytes.

Maddigan A, Truitt L, Arsenault R, Freywald T, Allonby O, Dean J, Narendran A, Xiang J, Weng A, Napper S, Freywald A
Source: J Immunol
Publication Date: (2011)
Issue: 187(11): 5983-94
Research Area:
Immunotherapy / Hematology
Basic Research


Treatment of hematopoietic malignancies often requires allogeneic bone marrow transplantation, and the subsequent graft-versus-leukemia response is crucial for the elimination of malignant cells. Cytotoxic T lymphocytes and NK cells responsible for the immunoelimination express Fas ligand and strongly rely on the induction of Fas receptor-mediated apoptosis for their action. Although cancer cells are removed successfully by graft-versus-leukemia reactions in myeloid malignancies, their efficiency is low in T cell leukemias. This may be partially because of the ability of malignant T cells to escape apoptosis. Our work shows that Eph family receptor EphB3 is consistently expressed by malignant T lymphocytes, most frequently in combination with EphB6, and that stimulation with their common ligands, ephrin-B1 and ephrin-B2, strongly suppresses Fas-induced apoptosis in these cells. This effect is associated with Akt activation and with the inhibition of the Fas receptor-initiated caspase proteolytic cascade. Akt proved to be crucial for the prosurvival response, because inhibition of Akt, but not of other molecules central to T cell biology, including Src kinases, MEK1 and MEK2, blocked the antiapoptotic effect. Overall, this demonstrates a new role for EphB receptors in the protection of malignant T cells from Fas-induced apoptosis through Akt engagement and prevention of caspase activation. Because Fas-triggered apoptosis is actively involved in the graft-versus-leukemia response and cytotoxic T cells express ephrin-Bs, our observations suggest that EphB receptors are likely to support immunoevasivenes of T cell malignancies and may represent promising targets for therapies, aiming to enhance immunoelimination of cancerous T cells.