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Original Research ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Pharmacol. | doi: 10.3389/fphar.2018.01118

Disruption of PD-1 Enhanced the Anti-tumor Activity of Chimeric Antigen Receptor T Cells against Hepatocellular Carcinoma

 Xingliang Guo1, Hua JIang1, Bizhi Shi1, Min Zhou1, Honghong Zhang2, Zhimin Shi2, Guoxiu Du2, Hong Luo1, Xiuqi Wu1, Yi Wang1, Ruixin Sun1 and  Zonghai Li1, 2*
  • 1Shanghai Cancer Institute, China
  • 2Carsgen Therapeutics, China

Cancer immunotherapy has made unprecedented breakthrough in the fields of chimeric antigen receptor-redirected T (CAR T) cell therapy and immune modulation. Combination of CAR modification and the disruption of endogenous inhibitory immune checkpoints on T cells represents a promising immunotherapeutic modality for cancer treatment. However, the potential for the treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) has not been explored. In this study, the gene expressing the programmed death 1 receptor (PD-1) on the Glypican-3 (GPC3)-targeted second-generation CAR T cells employing CD28 as the co-stimulatory domain was disrupted using the CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing system. It was found that, in vitro, the CAR T cells with the deficient PD-1 showed the stronger CAR-dependent anti-tumor activity against native programmed death 1 ligand 1-expressing HCC cell PLC/PRF/5 compared with the wild-type CAR T cells, and meanwhile, the CD4 and CD8 subsets, and activation status of CAR T cells were stable with the disruption of endogenous PD-1. Additionally, the disruption of PD-1 could protect the GPC3-CAR T cells from exhaustion when combating with native PD-L1-expressing HCC, as the levels of Akt phosphorylation and anti-apoptotic protein Bcl-xL expression in PD-1 deficient GPC3-CAR T cells were significantly higher than those in wild-type GPC3-CAR T cells after coculturing with PLC/PRF/5. Furthermore, the in vivo anti-tumor activity of the CAR T cells with the deficient PD-1 was investigated using the subcutaneous xenograft tumor model established by the injection of PLC/PRF/5 into NOD-scid-IL-2Rγ−/− (NSG) mice. The results indicated that the disruption of PD-1 enhanced the in vivo anti-tumor activity of CAR T cells against HCC, improved the persistence and infiltration of CAR T cells in the NSG mice bearing the tumor, and strengthened the inhibition of tumor-related genes expression in the xenograft tumors caused by the GPC3-CAR T cells. This study indicates the enhanced anti-tumor efficacy of PD-1-deficient CAR T cells against HCC and suggests the potential of precision gene editing on the immune checkpoints to enhance the CAR T cell therapies against HCC.

Keywords: Hepatocellular Carcinoma, Immunotherapy, Chimeric Antigen Receptor, PD-1, gene editing, CRISPR-Cas9

Received: 08 Jul 2018; Accepted: 13 Sep 2018.

Edited by:

Hubing Shi, Sichuan University, China

Reviewed by:

Heng Xu, Sichuan University, China
Zhong Zheng, UCLA School of Dentistry, United States  

Copyright: © 2018 Guo, JIang, Shi, Zhou, Zhang, Shi, Du, Luo, Wu, Wang, Sun and Li. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Prof. Zonghai Li, Shanghai Cancer Institute, Shanghai, Shanghai Municipality, China,