Background: NR2F6 has been proposed as an alternative cancer immune checkpoint in the effector T cell compartment. However, a realistic assessment of the in vivo therapeutic potential of NR2F6 requires acute depletion.
Methods: Employing primary T cells isolated from Cas9-transgenic mice for electroporation of chemically synthesized sgRNA, we established a CRISPR/Cas9-mediated acute knockout protocol of Nr2f6 in primary mouse T cells.
Results: Analyzing these Nr2f6CRISPR/Cas9 knockout T cells, we reproducibly observed a hyper-reactive effector phenotype upon CD3/CD28 stimulation in vitro, highly reminiscent to Nr2f6-/- T cells. Importantly, CRISPR/Cas9-mediated Nr2f6 ablation prior to adoptive cell therapy (ACT) of autologous polyclonal T cells into wild-type tumor-bearing recipient mice in combination with PD-L1 or CTLA-4 tumor immune checkpoint blockade significantly delayed MC38 tumor progression and induced superior survival, thus further validating a T cell-inhibitory function of NR2F6 during tumor progression.
Conclusions: These findings indicate that Nr2f6CRISPR/Cas9 knockout T cells are comparable to germline Nr2f6-/- T cells, a result providing an independent confirmation of the immune checkpoint function of lymphatic NR2F6. Taken together, CRISPR/Cas9-mediated acute Nr2f6 gene ablation in primary mouse T cells prior to ACT appeared feasible for potentiating established PD-L1 and CTLA-4 blockade therapies, thereby pioneering NR2F6 inhibition as a sensitizing target for augmented tumor regression. Video abstract.
Keywords: CRISPR/Cas9 genetically modified cell therapy; Combinatorial treatment regimens; Immune checkpoint NR2F6; transcriptional repressor of CD3+ effector T cell functions.