As regulatory T cells (Tregs) play a fundamental role in immune homeostasis their adoptive transfer emerged as a promising treatment strategy for inflammation-related diseases. Preclinical animal models underline the superiority of antigen-specific Tregs compared to polyclonal cells. Here, we applied a modular chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) technology called UniCAR for generation of antigen-specific human Tregs. In contrast to conventional CARs, UniCAR-endowed Tregs are indirectly linked to their target cells via a separate targeting module (TM). Thus, transduced Tregs can be applied universally as their antigen-specificity is easily adjusted by TM exchange. Activation of UniCAR-engrafted Tregs occurred in strict dependence on the TM, facilitating a precise control over Treg activity. In order to augment efficacy and safety, different intracellular signaling domains were tested. Both 4-1BB (CD137) and CD28 costimulation induced strong suppressive function of genetically modified Tregs. However, in light of safety issues, UniCARs comprising a CD137-CD3zeta signaling domain emerged as constructs of choice for a clinical application of redirected Tregs. In that regard, Tregs isolated from patients suffering from autoimmune or inflammatory diseases were, for the first time, successfully engineered with UniCAR 137/zeta and efficiently suppressed patient-derived effector cells. Overall, the UniCAR platform represents a promising approach to improve Treg-based immunotherapies for tolerance induction.
Type of Publication:
Journal article published