The inhibitory receptor NKG2A-CD94 is mainly expressed on NK cells and some T cell and mediates an inhibitory signal through association with a non-classical MHC class I molecule HLA-E, which is commonly over-expressed in human cancers. Targeting NKG2A with monoclonal antibody holds potentials in immunotherapy of cancer. However, proteins with homologous sequences such as NKG2C/CD94 or NKG2E/CD94 complexes generally deliver an activating signal upon ligand binding. NKG2A-specific antagonizing antibodies would be needed to further explore therapeutic potentials of targeting NKG2A for immunotherapy of cancer.

We have developed and characterized panels of monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) that specifically recognize NKG2A. Balb/c or SJL mice had been immunized with recombinant NKG2A/CD94 protein, recombinant plasmids encoding hNKG2A or stable cell line with ectopic expression of hNKG2A. Splenocytes from such immunized animals were collected for construction of phage-displayed antibody library in a single chain variable fragment (scFv) format. The NKG2A-specific antibodies, that had no binding to NKG2C, NKG2E or CD94, were isolated through multiple rounds of phage panning and ELISA-based screening. Such antibodies also block HLA-E ligand binding and enhanced cytotoxicity of NK cell lines and primary NK cells on cancer cells.

In summary, isolation and characterization of a panel of NKG2A-specific antagonizing antibodies enable us to further determine the feasibility of NKG2A-targeted immunotherapy of cancer.

Citation Format: Jing Gao, Lili Hu, Ruirui Sui, Cuicui Guo, Lina Wang, Teddy Yang, Jack Han, Qing Duan, Louis Liu. NKG2A-antagonizing monoclonal antibodies identified through phage display [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting 2019; 2019 Mar 29-Apr 3; Atlanta, GA. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2019;79(13 Suppl):Abstract nr 2387.