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Cancer poses a significant burden on the global health system and represents a leading cause of death worldwide. For late-stage cancers, the traditional treatments of chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery are not always viable, and they can pose unnecessary health risks to the patients. New immunotherapies, such as adoptive cell transfer, are being developed and refined to treat such cancers. T cell immunotherapies in particular, where a patient’s T cell lymphocytes are isolated and amplified to be re-infused into the patient or where human cell lines are engineered to express T cell receptors for the recognition of common cancer antigens, are being expanded on because for some cancers, they could be the only option. Constructing an optimal pipeline for cloning and expression of antigen-specific TCRs has significant bearing on the efficacy of engineered cell lines for ACT. Adoptive T cell transfer, while making great strides, has to overcome a diverse T cell repertoire – cloning and expressing antigen-specific TCRs can mediate this understanding. Having identified the high frequency FluM1-specific TCR sequences in stimulated donor PBMCs, it was hypothesized that the antigen-specific TCR could be reconstructed via Gateway cloning methods and tested for expression and functionality. Establishing this pipeline would confirm an ability to properly pair and express the heterodimeric chains. In the context of downstream applications, neoantigens would be used to stimulate T cells, the α and β chains would be paired via single-cell or bulk methods, and instead of Gateway cloning, the CDR3 hypervariable regions α and β chains alone would be co-expressed using Golden Gate assembly methods.
Adoptive transfer of T cells engineered to express synthetic antigen-specific T cell receptors (TCRs) has provocative therapeutic applications for treating cancer. However, expressing these synthetic TCRs in a CD4+ T cell line is a challenge. The CD4+ Jurkat T cell line expresses endogenous TCRs that compete for space, accessory proteins, and proliferative signaling, and there is the potential for mixed dimer formation between the α and β chains of the endogenous receptor and that of the synthetic cancer-specific TCRs. To prevent hybridization between the receptors and to ensure the binding affinity measured with flow cytometry analysis is between the tetramer and the TCR construct, a CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing pipeline was developed. The guide RNAs (gRNAs) within the complex were designed to target the constant region of the α and β chains, as they are conserved between TCR clonotypes. To minimize further interference and confer cytotoxic capabilities, gRNAs were designed to target the CD4 coreceptor, and the CD8 coreceptor was delivered in a mammalian expression vector. Further, Golden Gate cloning methods were validated in integrating the gRNAs into a CRISPR-compatible mammalian expression vector. These constructs were transfected via electroporation into CD4+ Jurkat T cells to create a CD8+ knockout TCR Jurkat cell line for broadly applicable uses in T cell immunotherapies.