Adoptive immunotherapy with regulatory T cells (Tregs) is a promising treatment for allograft rejection and graft-versus-host disease (GVHD). Emerging data indicate that, compared with polyclonal Tregs, disease-relevant antigen-specific Tregs may have numerous advantages, such as a need for fewer cells and reduced risk of nonspecific immune suppression. Current methods to generate alloantigen-specific Tregs rely on expansion with allogeneic antigen-presenting cells, which requires access to donor and recipient cells and multiple MHC mismatches. The successful use of chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) for the generation of antigen-specific effector T cells suggests that a similar approach could be used to generate alloantigen-specific Tregs. Here, we have described the creation of an HLA-A2–specific CAR (A2-CAR) and its application in the generation of alloantigen-specific human Tregs. In vitro, A2-CAR–expressing Tregs maintained their expected phenotype and suppressive function before, during, and after A2-CAR–mediated stimulation. In mouse models, human A2-CAR–expressing Tregs were superior to Tregs expressing an irrelevant CAR at preventing xenogeneic GVHD caused by HLA-A2+ T cells. Together, our results demonstrate that use of CAR technology to generate potent, functional, and stable alloantigen-specific human Tregs markedly enhances their therapeutic potential in transplantation and sets the stage for using this approach for making antigen-specific Tregs for therapy of multiple diseases.
Katherine G. MacDonald, Romy E. Hoeppli, Qing Huang, Jana Gillies, Dan S. Luciani, Paul C. Orban, Raewyn Broady, Megan K. Levings