Targeted T cell receptor gene editing provides predictable T cell product function for immunotherapy

Muller, T. R., Jarosch, S., Hammel, M., Leube, J., Grassmann, S., Bernard, B., Effenberger, M., Andra, I., Chaudhry, M. Z., Kauferle, T., Malo, A., Cicin-Sain, L., Steinberger, P., Feuchtinger, T., Protzer, U., Schumann, K., Neuenhahn, M., Schober, K., and Busch, D. H. (2021). Cell Rep Med 2, 100374. doi: 10.1016/j.xcrm.2021.100374


Adoptive transfer of T cells expressing a transgenic T cell receptor (TCR) has the potential to revolutionize immunotherapy of infectious diseases and cancer. However, the generation of defined TCR-transgenic T cell medicinal products with predictable in vivo function still poses a major challenge and limits broader and more successful application of this "living drug." Here, by studying 51 different TCRs, we show that conventional genetic engineering by viral transduction leads to variable TCR expression and functionality as a result of variable transgene copy numbers and untargeted transgene integration. In contrast, CRISPR/Cas9-mediated TCR replacement enables defined, targeted TCR transgene insertion into the TCR gene locus. Thereby, T cell products display more homogeneous TCR expression similar to physiological T cells. Importantly, increased T cell product homogeneity after targeted TCR gene editing correlates with predictable in vivo T cell responses, which represents a crucial aspect for clinical application in adoptive T cell immunotherapy.