Enhanced functionality of T cell receptor-redirected T cells is defined by the transgene cassette
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- Leisegang, M., Engels, B., Meyerhuber, P. et al. J Mol Med (2008) 86: 573. doi:10.1007/s00109-008-0317-3
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The transfer of T cell receptor (TCR) genes allows to endow T cells with a new antigen specificity. For clinical applications of TCR-redirected T cells, efficient functional expression of the transgenic TCR is a key prerequisite. Here, we compared the influence of the transgene cassette on the expression and function of the murine TCR P14 (recognizing a LCMV gp33 epitope) and the human TCR WT-1 (recognizing an epitope of the tumor-associated antigen WT-1). We constructed different vectors, in which TCRα- and β-chain genes were either (a) linked by an internal ribosomal entry site (IRES), (b) combined by a 2A peptide, or (c) introduced into two individual retroviral constructs. While in a TCR-deficient T cell line TCR P14 was expressed equally well by all constructs, we found that IRES- but not 2A-employing TCR expression is hampered in a TCR-bearing cell line and in primary murine T cells where the transgenic TCR has to compete with endogenous TCR chains. Similarly, 2A-linked TCR WT-1 genes yielded highest expression and function as measured by tetramer binding and peptide-specific IFN-γ secretion. Differences in expression were independent of copy number integration as shown by real-time PCR. Thus, linking TCRα- and β-chain genes by a 2A peptide is superior to an IRES for TCR expression and T cell function.