Document Type


Journal Title

JCI Insight

Publication Date





Redundant tumor microenvironment (TME) immunosuppressive mechanisms and epigenetic maintenance of terminal T cell exhaustion greatly hinder functional antitumor immune responses in chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). Bromodomain and extraterminal (BET) proteins regulate key pathways contributing to CLL pathogenesis and TME interactions, including T cell function and differentiation. Herein, we report that blocking BET protein function alleviates immunosuppressive networks in the CLL TME and repairs inherent CLL T cell defects. The pan-BET inhibitor OPN-51107 reduced exhaustion-associated cell signatures resulting in improved T cell proliferation and effector function in the Eμ-TCL1 splenic TME. Following BET inhibition (BET-i), TME T cells coexpressed significantly fewer inhibitory receptors (IRs) (e.g., PD-1, CD160, CD244, LAG3, VISTA). Complementary results were witnessed in primary CLL cultures, wherein OPN-51107 exerted proinflammatory effects on T cells, regardless of leukemic cell burden. BET-i additionally promotes a progenitor T cell phenotype through reduced expression of transcription factors that maintain terminal differentiation and increased expression of TCF-1, at least in part through altered chromatin accessibility. Moreover, direct T cell effects of BET-i were unmatched by common targeted therapies in CLL. This study demonstrates the immunomodulatory action of BET-i on CLL T cells and supports the inclusion of BET inhibitors in the management of CLL to alleviate terminal T cell dysfunction and potentially enhance tumoricidal T cell activity.

MeSH Headings

Leukemia, Lymphocytic, Chronic, B-Cell, Tumor Microenvironment, Humans, Animals, Mice, T-Lymphocytes, Transcription Factors, Hepatocyte Nuclear Factor 1-alpha, Cell Proliferation, Bromodomain Containing Proteins, Proteins



Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.