CRISPR-Cas9 genome engineering has increased the pace of discovery for immunology and cancer biology, revealing potential therapeutic targets and providing insight into mechanisms underlying resistance to immunotherapy. However, endogenous immune recognition of Cas9 has limited the applicability of CRISPR technologies in vivo. Here, we characterized immune responses against Cas9 and other expressed CRISPR vector components that cause antigen-specific tumor rejection in several mouse cancer models. To avoid unwanted immune recognition, we designed a lentiviral vector system that allowed selective CRISPR antigen removal (SCAR) from tumor cells. The SCAR system reversed immune-mediated rejection of CRISPR-modified tumor cells in vivo and enabled high-throughput genetic screens in previously intractable models. A pooled in vivo screen using SCAR in a CRISPR-antigen-sensitive renal cell carcinoma revealed resistance pathways associated with autophagy and major histocompatibility complex class I (MHC class I) expression. Thus, SCAR presents a resource that enables CRISPR-based studies of tumor-immune interactions and prevents unwanted immune recognition of genetically engineered cells, with implications for clinical applications.
Keywords: CRISPR; Natural Killer cells; antigen presentation; checkpoint blockade; immuno-oncology; immunotherapy; in vivo screen; lentiviral vectors; pooled screen; target discovery.
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