Multivalent, asymmetric IL-2-Fc fusions show enhanced selectivity for regulatory T cells

Sci Signal. 2023 Oct 17;16(807):eadg0699. doi: 10.1126/scisignal.adg0699. Epub 2023 Oct 17.


The cytokine interleukin-2 (IL-2) has the potential to treat autoimmune disease but is limited by its modest specificity toward immunosuppressive regulatory T (Treg) cells. IL-2 receptors consist of combinations of α, β, and γ chains of variable affinity and cell specificity. Engineering IL-2 to treat autoimmunity has primarily focused on retaining binding to the relatively Treg-selective, high-affinity receptor while reducing binding to the less selective, low-affinity receptor. However, we found that refining the designs to focus on targeting the high-affinity receptor through avidity effects is key to optimizing Treg selectivity. We profiled the dynamics and dose dependency of signaling responses in primary human immune cells induced by engineered fusions composed of either wild-type IL-2 or mutant forms with altered affinity, valency, and fusion to the antibody Fc region for stability. Treg selectivity and signaling response variations were explained by a model of multivalent binding and dimer-enhanced avidity-a combined measure of the strength, number, and conformation of interaction sites-from which we designed tetravalent IL-2-Fc fusions that had greater Treg selectivity in culture than do current designs. Biasing avidity toward IL2Rα with an asymmetrical multivalent design consisting of one α/β chain-binding and one α chain-binding mutant further enhanced Treg selectivity. Comparative analysis revealed that IL2Rα was the optimal cell surface target for Treg selectivity, indicating that avidity for IL2Rα may be the optimal route to producing IL-2 variants that selectively target Tregs.

MeSH terms

  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-2 Receptor alpha Subunit
  • Interleukin-2* / genetics
  • Interleukin-2* / pharmacology
  • Receptors, Interleukin-2 / metabolism
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory*


  • Interleukin-2
  • Receptors, Interleukin-2
  • Interleukin-2 Receptor alpha Subunit
  • Cytokines