Abrogation of HLA surface expression using CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing: a step toward universal T cell therapy

Sci Rep. 2020 Oct 20;10(1):17753. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-74772-9.


As recent advancements in the chimeric antigen receptor-T cells have revolutionized the way blood cancers are handled, potential benefits from producing off-the-shelf, standardized immune cells entail the need for development of allogeneic immune cell therapy. However, host rejection driven by HLA disparity in adoptively transferred allogeneic T cells remains a key obstacle to the universal donor T cell therapy. To evade donor HLA-mediated immune rejection, we attempted to eliminate T cell’s HLA through the CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing system. First, we screened 60 gRNAs targeting B2M and multiple sets of gRNA each targeting α chains of HLA-II (DPA, DQA and DRA, respectively) using web-based design tools, and identified specific gRNA sequences highly efficient for target deletion without carrying off-target effects. Multiplex genome editing of primary human T cells achieved by the newly discovered gRNAs yielded HLA-I- or HLA-I/II-deficient T cells that were phenotypically unaltered and functionally intact. The overnight mixed lymphocyte reactions demonstrated the HLA-I-negative cells induced decreased production of IFN-γ and TNF-α in alloreactive T cells, and deficiency of HLA-I/II in T cells further dampened the inflammatory responses. Taken together, our approach will provide an efficacious pathway toward the universal donor cell generation by manipulating HLA expression in therapeutic T cells.

PMID:33082438 | PMC:PMC7576162 | DOI:10.1038/s41598-020-74772-9