Indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase-expressing leukemic dendritic cells impair a leukemia-specific immune response by inducing potent T regulatory cells

Antonio Curti, Sara Trabanelli, Chiara Onofri, Michela Aluigi, Valentina Salvestrini, Darina Ocadlikova, Cecilia Evangelisti, Sergio Rutella, Raimondo de Cristofaro, Emanuela Ottaviani, Michele Baccarani, Roberto M. Lemoli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background The immunoregulatory enzyme indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase, which catalyzes the conversion of tryptophan into kynurenine, is expressed in a significant subset of patients with acute myeloid leukemia, resulting in the inhibition of T-cell proliferation and the induction of regulatory T cells. Acute myeloid leukemia cells can be differentiated into dendritic cells, which have increased immunogenicity and have been proposed as vaccines against leukemia. Design and Methods Leukemic dendritic cells were generated from acute myeloid leukemia cells and used as stimulators in functional assays, including the induction of regulatory T cells. Indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase expression in leukemic dendritic cells was evaluated at molecular, protein and enzymatic levels. Results We demonstrate that, after differentiation into dendritic cells, both indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase-negative and indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase-positive acute myeloid leukemia samples show induction and up-regulation of indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase gene and protein, respectively. Indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase-positive acute myeloid leukemia dendritic cells catabolize tryptophan into kynurenine metabolite and inhibit T-cell proliferation through an indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase-dependent mechanism. Moreover, indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase-positive leukemic dendritic cells increase the number of allogeneic and autologous CD4+CD25+ Foxp3+ T cells and this effect is completely abrogated by the indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase-inhibitor, 1-methyl tryptophan. Purified CD4+CD25+ T cells obtained from co-culture with indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase-positive leukemic dendritic cells act as regulatory T cells as they inhibit naive T-cell proliferation and impair the complete maturation of normal dendritic cells. Importantly, leukemic dendritic cell-induced regulatory T cells are capable of in vitro suppression of a leukemia-specific T cell-mediated immune response, directed against the leukemia-associated antigen, Wilms' tumor protein. Conclusions These data identify indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase-mediated catabolism as a tolerogenic mechanism exerted by leukemic dendritic cells and have clinical implications for the use of these cells for active immunotherapy of leukemia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2022-2030
Number of pages9
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2010


  • 3-dioxygenase
  • Acute myeloid leukemia
  • Dendritic cells
  • Immunotherapy
  • Indoleamine 2
  • T regulatory cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hematology


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