Engineering T Cells with Customized Therapeutic Response Programs Using Synthetic Notch Receptors

Cell. 2016 Oct 6;167(2):419-432.e16. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2016.09.011. Epub 2016 Sep 29.


Redirecting T cells to attack cancer using engineered chimeric receptors provides powerful new therapeutic capabilities. However, the effectiveness of therapeutic T cells is constrained by the endogenous T cell response: certain facets of natural response programs can be toxic, whereas other responses, such as the ability to overcome tumor immunosuppression, are absent. Thus, the efficacy and safety of therapeutic cells could be improved if we could custom sculpt immune cell responses. Synthetic Notch (synNotch) receptors induce transcriptional activation in response to recognition of user-specified antigens. We show that synNotch receptors can be used to sculpt custom response programs in primary T cells: they can drive a la carte cytokine secretion profiles, biased T cell differentiation, and local delivery of non-native therapeutic payloads, such as antibodies, in response to antigen. SynNotch T cells can thus be used as a general platform to recognize and remodel local microenvironments associated with diverse diseases.

Keywords: CARs; T cells; cancer; cellular engineering; immunotherapy; synthetic Notch; synthetic biology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies / immunology
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Cell Engineering*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cytokines / immunology
  • Cytotoxicity, Immunologic
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy / methods
  • Lymphocyte Activation
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Receptors, Artificial / genetics
  • Receptors, Artificial / immunology*
  • Receptors, Notch / genetics
  • Receptors, Notch / immunology*
  • TNF-Related Apoptosis-Inducing Ligand / immunology
  • Th1 Cells / immunology
  • Transcription, Genetic
  • Tumor Microenvironment


  • Antibodies
  • Cytokines
  • Receptors, Artificial
  • Receptors, Notch
  • TNF-Related Apoptosis-Inducing Ligand