BACKGROUND AND AIMS:LAG-3 is an immune checkpoint and its expression identifies recently activated lymphocytes that may contribute to inflammation. We investigated the role of LAG-3 by analysing its expression and function in immune cells from blood and tissue of patients with ulcerative colitis (UC). METHODS:Phenotypic properties of LAG-3+ T cells were determined by flow cytometry, qRT-PCR and single-cell RNA-sequencing. LAG-3+ cells were quantified and correlated with disease activity. The functional effects of LAG-3+ cells were tested using a depleting anti-LAG-3 monoclonal antibody (mAb) in a mixed lymphocyte reaction (MLR). RESULTS:LAG-3+ cells in the blood was negligible. LAG-3+ lymphocytes were markedly increased in inflamed mucosal tissue and both frequencies of LAG-3+ T cells and transcript levels of LAG3 correlated with endoscopic severity. LAG-3 expression was predominantly on effector memory T cells and single-cell RNA-sequencing revealed LAG3 expression in activated and cytokine-producing T cell subsets. Foxp3+CD25hi Tregs also expressed LAG-3, although most mucosal Tregs were LAG-3-. Mucosal LAG-3+ cells produced mainly IFNγ and IL-17A. LAG-3+ cell numbers decreased in patients who responded to biologics, and remained elevated in non-responders. Treatment with a depleting anti-LAG-3 mAb led to a reduction in proliferation and IFNγ production in a MLR. CONCLUSIONS:LAG-3+ cells are increased in the inflamed mucosa, predominantly on effector memory T cells with an activated phenotype and their cell numbers positively correlate with disease activity. Depleting LAG-3 eliminates activated proliferating T cells, hence LAG-3 could be a therapeutic target in UC.
Journal of Crohn's & colitis
Oxford University Press (OUP)
ulcerative colitis, LAG-3, immune checkpoint