BACKGROUNDAntigen-specific regulation of autoimmune disease is a major goal. In seropositive rheumatoid arthritis (RA), T cell help to autoreactive B cells matures the citrullinated (Cit) antigen-specific immune response, generating RA-specific V domain glycosylated anti-Cit protein antibodies (ACPA VDG) before arthritis onset. Low or escalating antigen administration under "sub-immunogenic" conditions favors tolerance. We explored safety, pharmacokinetics, and immunological and clinical effects of s.c. DEN-181, comprising liposomes encapsulating self-peptide collagen II259-273 (CII) and NF-κB inhibitor 1,25-dihydroxycholecalciferol.METHODSA double-blind, placebo-controlled, exploratory, single-ascending-dose, phase I trial assessed the impact of low, medium, and high DEN-181 doses on peripheral blood CII-specific and bystander Cit64vimentin59-71-specific (Cit-Vim-specific) autoreactive T cell responses, cytokines, and ACPA in 17 HLA-DRB1*04:01+ or *01:01+ ACPA+ RA patients on methotrexate.RESULTSDEN-181 was well tolerated. Relative to placebo and normalized to baseline values, Cit-Vim-specific T cells decreased in patients administered medium and high doses of DEN-181. Relative to placebo, percentage of CII-specific programmed cell death 1+ T cells increased within 28 days of DEN-181. Exploratory analysis in DEN-181-treated patients suggested improved RA disease activity was associated with expansion of CII-specific and Cit-Vim-specific T cells; reduction in ACPA VDG, memory B cells, and inflammatory myeloid populations; and enrichment in CCR7+ and naive T cells. Single-cell sequencing identified T cell transcripts associated with tolerogenic TCR signaling and exhaustion after low or medium doses of DEN-181.CONCLUSIONThe safety and immunomodulatory activity of low/medium DEN-181 doses provide rationale to further assess antigen-specific immunomodulatory therapy in ACPA+ RA.TRIAL REGISTRATIONAnzctr.org.au identifier ACTRN12617001482358, updated September 8, 2022.FUNDINGInnovative Medicines Initiative 2 Joint Undertaking (grant agreement 777357), supported by European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme and European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations; Arthritis Queensland; National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Senior Research Fellowship; and NHMRC grant 2008287.
Keywords: Autoimmunity; Clinical Trials; Dendritic cells; Rheumatology; Tolerance.