PD-1 blockade unleashes CD8 T cells1, including those specific for mutation-associated neoantigens (MANA), but factors in the tumour microenvironment can inhibit these T cell responses. Single-cell transcriptomics have revealed global T cell dysfunction programs in tumour-infiltrating lymphocytes (TIL). However, the majority of TIL do not recognize tumour antigens2, and little is known about transcriptional programs of MANA-specific TIL. Here, we identify MANA-specific T cell clones using the MANA functional expansion of specific T cells assay3 in neoadjuvant anti-PD-1-treated non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLC). We use their T cell receptors as a ‘barcode’ to track and analyse their transcriptional programs in the tumour microenvironment using coupled single-cell RNA sequencing and T cell receptor sequencing. We find both MANA- and virus-specific clones in TIL, regardless of response, and MANA-, influenza- and Epstein–Barr virus-specific TIL each have unique transcriptional programs. Despite exposure to cognate antigen, MANA-specific TIL express an incompletely activated cytolytic program. MANA-specific CD8 T cells have hallmark transcriptional programs of tissue-resident memory (TRM) cells, but low levels of interleukin-7 receptor (IL-7R) and are functionally less responsive to interleukin-7 (IL-7) compared with influenza-specific TRM cells. Compared with those from responding tumours, MANA-specific clones from non-responding tumours express T cell receptors with markedly lower ligand-dependent signalling, are largely confined to HOBIThigh TRM subsets, and coordinately upregulate checkpoints, killer inhibitory receptors and inhibitors of T cell activation. These findings provide important insights for overcoming resistance to PD-1 blockade.
Chemistry and Pharmacology
Natural Sciences in General