Antigen-specific CD8+ T cells are critical for mounting an effective immune response against tumors. Generation of antigen-specific T cells require interactions with multiple signals produced by antigen presenting cells (APCs). These signals are comprised of three components: (signal 1) the peptide-MHC complex binding to the T cell receptor, (signal 2) costimulatory molecules on the surface of APCs, and (signal 3) inflammatory cytokines binding to cognate receptors on T cells. To engineer all major cell subsets of human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) to become enhanced APCs (eAPCs), we used Cell Squeeze® technology to deliver multiple mRNAs encoding for non-self-antigens (signal 1), CD86 (signal 2), and/or membrane-bound cytokines (signal 3). The signal 3 molecules, membrane-bound IL-12 (mbIL-12) and membrane-bound IL-2 (mbIL-2), are chimeric proteins designed to increase the localized concentration of the cytokines at the immune synapse and limit off-target effects. Flow cytometry confirmed translation of delivered signal 2/3 mRNAs by all major subsets within PBMCs: T cells, B cells, NK cells, and monocytes. The potency of these SQZ™ eAPCs was assessed in vitro by culturing the eAPCs with antigen-specific T cells for multiple days before measuring the functionality of antigen-specific T cells via intracellular cytokine staining or ELISA. Using this approach, we demonstrate that Cell Squeeze® co-delivery of antigen mRNA and signal 2/3 mRNAs significantly enhances CD8+ T cell responses to a variety of antigens, including CMV pp65, Influenza M1, HPV16 E6, and HPV16 E7. Furthermore, we demonstrate that SQZ™ eAPCs drive significant expansion of antigen-specific CD8+ T cells in a humanized mouse model. Thus, we demonstrate that Cell Squeeze® can deliver multiple mRNAs encoding for signals 1, 2, and 3 to human PBMCs and has the potential to generate enhanced APCs that drive strong CD8+ T cell responses against multiple antigens. The versatility of this approach
has the potential to enable rapid exchange of mRNA to encode for other antigens or T cell activation signals.
Citation Format: Michael F. Maloney, Emrah Ilker Ozay, Katarina Blagovic, Carolyne Smith, Andrea A. Silva, Amber Martin, Sanjana Manja, Madhav Upadhyay, Lindsay J. Moore, Ryan Stagg, Henry Mack, Christine Trumpfheller, Pablo Umana, Armon Sharei, Howard Bernstein, Scott M. Loughhead. Co-delivery of antigen-encoding mRNA and signal 2/3 mRNAs to PBMCs by Cell Squeeze® technology generates SQZ™ eAPCs that prime CD8+T cells in a humanized mouse model [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting 2022; 2022 Apr 8-13. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2022;82(12_Suppl):Abstract nr 2853.