Normalized Synergy Predicts That CD8 Co-Receptor Contribution to T Cell Receptor (TCR) and pMHC Binding Decreases As TCR Affinity Increases in Human Viral-Specific T Cells.
ABSTRACT: The discovery of naturally occurring T cell receptors (TCRs) that confer specific, high-affinity recognition of pathogen and cancer-associated antigens remains a major goal in cellular immunotherapies. The contribution of the CD8 co-receptor to the interaction between the TCR and peptide-bound major histocompatibility complex (pMHC) has previously been correlated with the activation and responsiveness of CD8+ T cells. However, these studies have been limited to model systems of genetically engineered hybridoma TCRs or transgenic mouse TCRs against either a single epitope or an array of altered peptide ligands. CD8 contribution in a native human antigen-specific T cell response remains elusive. Here, using Hepatitis C Virus-specific precursor CTLs spanning a large range of TCR affinities, we discovered that the functional responsiveness of any given TCR correlated with the contribution of CD8 to TCR/pMHC binding. Furthermore, we found that CD8 contribution to TCR/pMHC binding in the two-dimensional (2D) system was more accurately reflected by normalized synergy (CD8 cooperation normalized by total TCR/pMHC bonds) rather than synergy (total CD8 cooperation) alone. While synergy showed an increasing trend with TCR affinity, normalized synergy was demonstrated to decrease with the increase of TCR affinity. Critically, normalized synergy was shown to correlate with CTL functionality and peptide sensitivity, corroborating three-dimensional (3D) analysis of CD8 contribution with respect to TCR affinity. In addition, we identified TCRs that were independent of CD8 for TCR/pMHC binding. Our results resolve the current discrepancy between 2D and 3D analysis on CD8 contribution to TCR/pMHC binding, and demonstrate that naturally occurring high-affinity TCRs are more capable of CD8-independent interactions that yield greater functional responsiveness even with CD8 blocking. Taken together, our data suggest that addition of the normalized synergy parameter to our previously established TCR discovery platform using 2D TCR affinity and sequence test would allow for selection of TCRs specific to any given antigen with the desirable attributes of high TCR affinity, CD8 co-receptor independence and functional superiority. Utilizing TCRs with less CD8 contribution could be beneficial for adoptive cell transfer immunotherapies using naturally occurring or genetically engineered T cells against viral or cancer-associated antigens.
Project description:The T-cell receptor (TCR) interacts with peptide-major histocompatibility complexes (pMHC) to discriminate pathogens from self-antigens and trigger adaptive immune responses. Direct physical contact is required between the T cell and the antigen-presenting cell for cross-junctional binding where the TCR and pMHC are anchored on two-dimensional (2D) membranes of the apposing cells. Despite their 2D nature, TCR-pMHC binding kinetics have only been analysed three-dimensionally (3D) with a varying degree of correlation with the T-cell responsiveness. Here we use two mechanical assays to show high 2D affinities between a TCR and its antigenic pMHC driven by rapid on-rates. Compared to their 3D counterparts, 2D affinities and on-rates of the TCR for a panel of pMHC ligands possess far broader dynamic ranges that match that of their corresponding T-cell responses. The best 3D predictor of response is the off-rate, with agonist pMHC dissociating the slowest. In contrast, 2D off-rates are up to 8,300-fold faster, with the agonist pMHC dissociating the fastest. Our 2D data suggest rapid antigen sampling by T cells and serial engagement of a few agonist pMHCs by TCRs in a large self pMHC background. Thus, the cellular environment amplifies the intrinsic TCR-pMHC binding to generate broad affinities and rapid kinetics that determine T-cell responsiveness.
Project description:TCR-signaling strength generally correlates with peptide-MHC binding affinity; however, exceptions exist. We find high-affinity, yet non-stimulatory, interactions occur with high frequency in the human T cell repertoire. Here, we studied human TCRs that are refractory to activation by pMHC ligands despite robust binding. Analysis of 3D affinity, 2D dwell time, and crystal structures of stimulatory versus non-stimulatory TCR-pMHC interactions failed to account for their different signaling outcomes. Using yeast pMHC display, we identified peptide agonists of a formerly non-responsive TCR. Single-molecule force measurements demonstrated the emergence of catch bonds in the activating TCR-pMHC interactions, correlating with exclusion of CD45 from the TCR-APC contact site. Molecular dynamics simulations of TCR-pMHC disengagement distinguished agonist from non-agonist ligands based on the acquisition of catch bonds within the TCR-pMHC interface. The isolation of catch bonds as a parameter mediating the coupling of TCR binding and signaling has important implications for TCR and antigen engineering for immunotherapy.
Project description:T cells recognize antigens at the two-dimensional (2D) interface with antigen-presenting cells (APCs), which trigger T-cell effector functions. T-cell functional outcomes correlate with 2D kinetics of membrane-embedded T-cell receptors (TCRs) binding to surface-tethered peptide-major histocompatibility complex molecules (pMHCs). However, most studies have measured TCR-pMHC kinetics for recombinant TCRs in 3D by surface plasmon resonance, which differs drastically from 2D measurements. Here, we compared pMHC dissociation from native TCR on the T-cell surface to recombinant TCR immobilized on glass surface or in solution. Force on TCR-pMHC bonds regulated their lifetimes differently for native than recombinant TCRs. Perturbing the cellular environment suppressed 2D on-rates but had no effect on 2D off-rate regardless of whether force was applied. In contrast, for the TCR interacting with its monoclonal antibody, the 2D on-rate was insensitive to cellular perturbations and the force-dependent off-rates were indistinguishable for native and recombinant TCRs. These data present novel features of TCR-pMHC kinetics that are regulated by the cellular environment, underscoring the limitations of 3D kinetics in predicting T-cell functions and calling for further elucidation of the underlying molecular and cellular mechanisms that regulate 2D kinetics in physiological settings.
Project description:T cell receptors (TCRs) bind to peptide-major histocompatibility complex (pMHC) with low affinity (Kd ? ?M), which is generally assumed to facilitate cross-reactive TCR "scanning" of ligands. To understand the relationship between TCR/pMHC affinity and cross-reactivity, we sought to engineer an additional weak interaction, termed "velcro," between the TCR and pMHC to probe the specificities of TCRs at relatively low and high affinities. This additional interaction was generated through an eight-amino acid peptide library covalently linked to the N terminus of the MHC-bound peptide. Velcro was selected through an affinity-based isolation and was subsequently shown to enhance the cognate TCR/pMHC affinity in a peptide-dependent manner by ?10-fold. This was sufficient to convert a nonstimulatory ultra-low-affinity ligand into a stimulatory ligand. An X-ray crystallographic structure revealed how velcro interacts with the TCR. To probe TCR cross-reactivity, we screened TCRs against yeast-displayed pMHC libraries with and without velcro, and found that the peptide cross-reactivity profiles of low-affinity (Kd > 100 ?M) and high-affinity (Kd ? ?M) TCR/pMHC interactions are remarkably similar. The conservation of recognition of the TCR for pMHC across affinities reveals the nature of low-affinity ligands for which there are important biological functions and has implications for understanding the specificities of affinity-matured TCRs.
Project description:Adoptive cell transfer using engineered T cells is emerging as a promising treatment for metastatic melanoma. Such an approach allows one to introduce T cell receptor (TCR) modifications that, while maintaining the specificity for the targeted antigen, can enhance the binding and kinetic parameters for the interaction with peptides (p) bound to major histocompatibility complexes (MHC). Using the well-characterized 2C TCR/SIYR/H-2K(b) structure as a model system, we demonstrated that a binding free energy decomposition based on the MM-GBSA approach provides a detailed and reliable description of the TCR/pMHC interactions at the structural and thermodynamic levels. Starting from this result, we developed a new structure-based approach, to rationally design new TCR sequences, and applied it to the BC1 TCR targeting the HLA-A2 restricted NY-ESO-1157-165 cancer-testis epitope. Fifty-four percent of the designed sequence replacements exhibited improved pMHC binding as compared to the native TCR, with up to 150-fold increase in affinity, while preserving specificity. Genetically engineered CD8(+) T cells expressing these modified TCRs showed an improved functional activity compared to those expressing BC1 TCR. We measured maximum levels of activities for TCRs within the upper limit of natural affinity, K D?=??1?-?5??M. Beyond the affinity threshold at K D?<?1??M we observed an attenuation in cellular function, in line with the "half-life" model of T cell activation. Our computer-aided protein-engineering approach requires the 3D-structure of the TCR-pMHC complex of interest, which can be obtained from X-ray crystallography. We have also developed a homology modeling-based approach, TCRep 3D, to obtain accurate structural models of any TCR-pMHC complexes when experimental data is not available. Since the accuracy of the models depends on the prediction of the TCR orientation over pMHC, we have complemented the approach with a simplified rigid method to predict this orientation and successfully assessed it using all non-redundant TCR-pMHC crystal structures available. These methods potentially extend the use of our TCR engineering method to entire TCR repertoires for which no X-ray structure is available. We have also performed a steered molecular dynamics study of the unbinding of the TCR-pMHC complex to get a better understanding of how TCRs interact with pMHCs. This entire rational TCR design pipeline is now being used to produce rationally optimized TCRs for adoptive cell therapies of stage IV melanoma.
Project description:T cells have to detect rare high-affinity 'foreign' peptide MHC (pMHC) ligands among abundant low-affinity 'self'-peptide MHC ligands. It remains unclear how this remarkable discrimination is achieved. Kinetic proofreading mechanisms can provide the required specificity but only at the expense of much reduced sensitivity. A number of recent observations suggest that pMHC engagement of T cell receptors (TCRs) induces changes such as clustering and/or conformational alterations that enhance subsequent rebinding. We show that inclusion of induced rebinding to the same pMHC in kinetic proofreading models enhances the sensitivity of TCR recognition while retaining specificity. Moreover, induced rebinding is able to reproduce the striking, and hitherto unexplained, 2D membrane-binding properties recently reported for the TCR.
Project description:Anti-self/tumor T cell function can be improved by increasing TCR-peptide MHC (pMHC) affinity within physiological limits, but paradoxically further increases (K(d) < 1 ?M) lead to drastic functional declines. Using human CD8(+) T cells engineered with TCRs of incremental affinity for the tumor antigen HLA-A2/NY-ESO-1, we investigated the molecular mechanisms underlying this high-affinity-associated loss of function. As compared with cells expressing TCR affinities generating optimal function (K(d) = 5 to 1 ?M), those with supraphysiological affinity (K(d) = 1 ?M to 15 nM) showed impaired gene expression, signaling, and surface expression of activatory/costimulatory receptors. Preferential expression of the inhibitory receptor programmed cell death-1 (PD-1) was limited to T cells with the highest TCR affinity, correlating with full functional recovery upon PD-1 ligand 1 (PD-L1) blockade. In contrast, upregulation of the Src homology 2 domain-containing phosphatase 1 (SHP-1/PTPN6) was broad, with gradually enhanced expression in CD8(+) T cells with increasing TCR affinities. Consequently, pharmacological inhibition of SHP-1 with sodium stibogluconate augmented the function of all engineered T cells, and this correlated with the TCR affinity-dependent levels of SHP-1. These data highlight an unexpected and global role of SHP-1 in regulating CD8(+) T cell activation and responsiveness and support the development of therapies inhibiting protein tyrosine phosphatases to enhance T cell-mediated immunity.
Project description:T cell receptors (TCRs) on T cells recognize peptide-major histocompatibility complex (pMHC) molecules on the surface of antigen presenting cells and this interaction determines the T cell immune response. Due to negative selection, naturally occurring TCRs bind self (tumor) peptides with low affinity and have a much higher affinity for foreign antigens. This complicates isolation of naturally occurring, high affinity TCRs that mediate more effective tumor rejection for therapeutic purposes. An attractive approach to resolve this issue is to engineer high affinity TCRs in vitro using phage, yeast or mammalian TCR display systems. A caveat of these systems is that they rely on a large library by random mutagenesis due to the lack of knowledge regarding the specific interactions between the TCR and pMHC. We have focused on the mammalian retroviral display system because it uniquely allows for direct comparison of TCR-pMHC-binding properties with T-cell activation outcomes. Through an alanine-scanning approach, we are able to quickly map the key amino acid residues directly involved in TCR-pMHC interactions thereby significantly reducing the library size. Using this method, we demonstrate that for a self-antigen-specific human TCR (R6C12) the key residues for pMHC binding are located in the CDR3? region. This information was used as a basis for designing an efficacious TCR CDR3? library that allowed for selection of TCRs with higher avidity than the wild-type as evaluated through binding and activation experiments. This is a direct approach to target specific TCR residues in TCR library design to efficiently engineer high avidity TCRs that may potentially be used to enhance adoptive immunotherapy treatments.
Project description:T cell receptors (TCRs) recognize peptides presented by MHC molecules (pMHC) on an antigen-presenting cell (APC) to discriminate foreign from self-antigens and initiate adaptive immune responses. In addition, T cell activation generally requires binding of this same pMHC to a CD4 or CD8 co-receptor, resulting in assembly of a TCR-pMHC-CD4 or TCR-pMHC-CD8 complex and recruitment of Lck via its association with the co-receptor. Here we review structural and biophysical studies of CD4 and CD8 interactions with MHC molecules and TCR-pMHC complexes. Crystal structures have been determined of CD8?? and CD8?? in complex with MHC class I, of CD4 bound to MHC class II, and of a complete TCR-pMHC-CD4 ternary complex. Additionally, the binding of these co-receptors to pMHC and TCR-pMHC ligands has been investigated both in solution and in situ at the T cell-APC interface. Together, these studies have provided key insights into the role of CD4 and CD8 in T cell activation, and into how these co-receptors focus TCR on MHC to guide TCR docking on pMHC during thymic T cell selection.
Project description:T-cell receptor (TCR)-pMHC affinity has been generally accepted to be the most important factor dictating antigen recognition in gene-modified T-cells. As such, there is great interest in optimizing TCR-based immunotherapies by enhancing TCR affinity to augment the therapeutic benefit of TCR gene-modified T-cells in cancer patients. However, recent clinical trials using affinity-enhanced TCRs in adoptive cell transfer (ACT) have observed unintended and serious adverse events, including death, attributed to unpredicted off-tumor or off-target cross-reactivity. It is critical to re-evaluate the importance of other biophysical, structural, or cellular factors that drive the reactivity of TCR gene-modified T-cells. Using a model for altered antigen recognition, we determined how TCR-pMHC affinity influenced the reactivity of hepatitis C virus (HCV) TCR gene-modified T-cells against a panel of naturally occurring HCV peptides and HCV-expressing tumor targets. The impact of other factors, such as TCR-pMHC stabilization and signaling contributions by the CD8 co-receptor, as well as antigen and TCR density were also evaluated. We found that changes in TCR-pMHC affinity did not always predict or dictate IFN? release or degranulation by TCR gene-modified T-cells, suggesting that less emphasis might need to be placed on TCR-pMHC affinity as a means of predicting or augmenting the therapeutic potential of TCR gene-modified T-cells used in ACT. A more complete understanding of antigen recognition by gene-modified T-cells and a more rational approach to improve the design and implementation of novel TCR-based immunotherapies is necessary to enhance efficacy and maximize safety in patients.