The GPR171 pathway suppresses T cell activation and limits antitumor immunity


The recently identified G-protein-coupled receptor GPR171 and its ligand BigLEN are thought to regulate food uptake and anxiety. Though GPR171 is commonly used as a T cell signature gene in transcriptomic studies, its potential role in T cell immunity has not been explored. Here we show that GPR171 is transcribed in T cells and its protein expression is induced upon antigen stimulation. The neuropeptide ligand BigLEN interacts with GPR171 to suppress T cell receptor-mediated signalling pathways and to inhibit T cell proliferation. Loss of GPR171 in T cells leads to hyperactivity to antigen stimulation and GPR171 knockout mice exhibit enhanced antitumor immunity. Blockade of GPR171 signalling by an antagonist promotes antitumor T cell immunity and improves immune checkpoint blockade therapies. Together, our study identifies the GPR171/BigLEN axis as a T cell checkpoint pathway that can be modulated for cancer immunotherapy.

In Nature Communications
Nick Borcherding
Nick Borcherding
Assistant Professor

My research includes systems immunology, single-cell sequencing technology, and computational frameworks.