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DNAM1 and 2B4 Costimulatory Domains Enhance the Cytotoxicity of Anti-GPC3 Chimeric Antigen Receptor-Modified Natural Killer Cells Against Hepatocellular Cancer Cells in vitro

Authors Huang Y, Zeng J, Liu T, Xu Q, Song X, Zeng J

Received 12 March 2020

Accepted for publication 4 April 2020

Published 8 May 2020 Volume 2020:12 Pages 3247—3255


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 3

Editor who approved publication: Dr Eileen O'Reilly

Yao Huang,1,2 Jianxing Zeng,2 Teng Liu,2 Qingyi Xu,2 Xianglin Song,2 Jinhua Zeng1,2

1Department of Hepatobiliary Surgery, The First Affiliated Hospital of Fujian Medical University, Fuzhou, Fujian, People’s Republic of China; 2Department of Hepatic Surgery, Mengchao Hepatobiliary Hospital of Fujian Medical University, Fuzhou, Fujian, People’s Republic of China

Correspondence: Jinhua Zeng
Tel +86 13905918632

Purpose: Hepatocellular cancer (HCC) is the sixth most prevalent cancer and the third leading cause of cancer-related death worldwide. Cellular immunotherapy against glypican 3 (GPC3) has recently been used in the treatment of HCC, following the success of chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-T therapy in treatment of B cell malignancy. However, CAR-T cells are not “off-the-shelf” and always cause cytokine release syndrome, which can be eliminated by using natural killer (NK) cells as effector cells. Since a costimulatory signal is necessary for the activation, persistence, or cytotoxicity of CAR-T cells, we speculated that the costimulatory signal is also required for CAR-NK cells in HCC treatment.
Methods: Five anti-GPC3 CAR plasmids containing different costimulatory domains were constructed. They included Z (only the CD3ζ domain, no costimulatory domain), CD28.Z (T-cell costimulatory domain CD28), DNAM1/2B4.Z (NK-cell-associated costimulatory domain DNAM1 or 2B4), and DNAM1.2B4.Z (both NK-cell-associated costimulatory domains). Respective CAR-NK-92 cells were generated. The MTT viability assay was performed to evaluate the effect of the different costimulatory domains on CAR-NK-cell proliferation. The effect on persistence was analyzed using an apoptosis assay and flow cytometry. Special cytotoxicity against normal hepatocellular cells and GPC3+ malignant cells was investigated in vitro. The concentration of cytokines (TNF-α and IFN-γ) released by CAR-NK-92 cells was also measured by ELISA.
Results: NK-cell-associated costimulatory signal was necessary for CAR-NK-92 cells. CAR-NK-92 cells with DNAM1 and/or 2B4 expanded more quickly and persisted with a lower apoptotic ratio, compared to the presence of CD28 or no costimulatory signal. All CAR-NK-92 cells showed special cellular cytotoxicity in vitro. CAR-NK-92 cells with NK-cell-associated costimulatory domains exhibited higher cytotoxic ability compared with those without any costimulatory domain or with T-cell costimulatory domain. CAR-NK-92 cells with both DNAM1 and 2B4 displayed the highest cytotoxicity. The cytokine release assay results were consistent with those of the cytotoxicity assay.
Conclusion: We provided the first evidence supporting a strategy using DNAM1 and 2B4 costimulatory domains to generate anti-GPC3 CAR-NK-92 cells, which exhibits enhanced cytotoxicity against hepatocellular cancer cells in vitro.

Keywords: HCC, CAR-NK, DNAM1, 2B4, proliferation, apoptosis, cytotoxicity

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