Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Biology (Cell Biology, Microbiology, Molecular Biology)

Major Professor

Dmitry Gabrilovich, M.D., Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

William Kerr, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Eduardo Sotomayor, M.D., Ph.D.

Committee Member

Mark Alexandrow, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Gary Reuther, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Augusto Ochoa, M.D.


myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSC), regulatory T cells (Tregs), cancer, allogeneic immune responses, differentiation, granulocytic MDSC, monocytic MDSC, Retinoblastoma gene (Rb1), SHIP1


Regulatory T cells (Tregs) and myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSC) have been extensively studied in the past 30-40 years. Their potent suppressive capacity shown in several pathological and clinical settings, such as cancer and transplantation, has made it evident that better understanding their development and function is critical.

Specifically, Tregs play a pivotal role in preventing autoimmunity, graft-versus-host disease (GvHD), and organ graft rejection. We previously demonstrated that germline or induced SH2 domain-containing inositol 5-phosphatase (SHIP) deficiency in the host abrogates GvHD. Here we show that SHIP-deficiency promotes an increase of FoxP3+ cells in both the CD4+CD25+ and the CD4+CD25- T cell compartments with increased expression of Treg-associated markers. Importantly, SHIP-deficiency does not compromise Treg function. Interestingly, like conventional Tregs, SHIP-/- CD4+CD25- T cells are unresponsive to allogeneic stimulators and suppress allogeneic responses by T cells in vitro, and can mediate reduced lethal GvHD in vivo. Thus, SHIP limits the immunoregulatory capacity of CD4+ T cell, particularly in allogeneic settings.

SHIP-deficiency expands the number of immunoregulatory cells in both the T lymphoid and myeloid lineages. Here, we examined if these increases are interrelated. Specifically, we found that myeloid specific SHIP-deficiency leads to expansion of both MDSC and Treg numbers. Conversely, T lineage specific ablation of SHIP leads to expansion of Treg numbers, but not expansion of MDSC, indicating an intrinsic role for SHIP in limiting Treg numbers. Interestingly, MDSC lack SHIP expression suggesting that another SHIP-deficient myeloid cell promotes MDSC and Treg expansion. Also, increased levels of G-CSF, a myelopoietic growth factor, in SHIP-/- mice may extrinsically promote MDSC expansion since we found that G-CSF is required for the expansion of splenic MDSC in mice with induced SHIP-deficiency.

MDSC consist of two distinct subsets, granulocytic-MDSC (G-MDSC), and monocytic-MDSC (M-MDSC) that differ in morphology, phenotype, suppressive capacity and differentiation potential. Importantly, M-MDSC can further differentiate into dendritic cells, macrophages and preferentially into G-MDSC, in the presence of tumor-derived factors (TDF). The retinoblastoma gene (Rb1), a tumor suppressor gene and central regulator of the cell cycle and differentiation, has been shown to influence monocytic and neutrophilic lineage commitment and to limit myeloproliferative disease. Here, we examined the role of Rb1 in the biology of MDSC subsets in tumor-bearing mice. Firstly, M-MDSC expressed high levels of Rb1 which remained relatively stable in culture with GM-CSF. Conversely, freshly isolated G-MDSC initially expressed undetectable levels of Rb1 that increased over time in culture, which correlated with increased histone acetylation at the Rb1 promoter. This increased Rb1 expression and histone acetylation was accelerated by histone deacetylase inhibitors (HDACi) treatment, suggesting Rb1 expression may be controlled by histone modification. Furthermore, when treated with HDACi, M-MDSC did not differentiate into G-MDSC in culture, even with TDF present. Finally, induced Rb1 deficiency in vivo promoted an expansion of splenic CD11b+Ly6G+Ly6Clo cells, similar to G-MDSC in tumor-bearing mice. Although further studies are required, these results strongly suggest that Rb1, like SHIP, plays a role in MDSC accumulation, particularly G-MDSC in cancer.