Harnessing autophagy for cell fate control gene therapy


We hypothesized that rapamycin, through induction of autophagy and promotion of an antiapoptotic phenotype, would permit lentiviral (LV)-based transgene delivery to human T-Rapa cells, which are being tested in phase II clinical trials in the setting of allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation. Manufactured T-Rapa cells were exposed to supernatant enriched for a LV vector encoding a fusion protein consisting of truncated CD19 (for cell surface marking) and DTYMK/TMPKΔ, which provides “cell-fate control” due to its ability to phosphorylate (activate) AZT prodrug. LV-transduction in rapamycin-treated T-Rapa cells: (1) resulted in mitochondrial autophagy and a resultant antiapoptotic phenotype, which was reversed by the autophagy inhibitor 3-MA; (2) yielded changes in MAP1LC3B and SQSTM1 expression, which were reversed by 3-MA; and (3) increased T-Rapa cell expression of the CD19-DTYMKΔ fusion protein, despite their reduced proliferative status. Importantly, although the transgene-expressing T-Rapa cells expressed an antiapoptotic phenotype, they were highly susceptible to cell death via AZT exposure both in vitro and in vivo (in a human-into-mouse xenogeneic transplantation model). Therefore, rapamycin induction of T cell autophagy can be used for gene therapy applications, including the CD19-DTYMKΔ cell-fate control axis to improve the safety of T cell immuno-gene therapy.

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Harnessing autophagy for cell fate control gene therapy