Mammalian Display Platform for the Maturation of Bispecific TCR-Based Molecules
Janine Dilchert, Martin Hofmann, Felix Unverdorben, Roland Kontermann, Sebastian Bunk
Bispecific T cell receptor (TCR)-based molecules capable of redirecting and activating T cells towards tumor cells represent a novel and promising class of biotherapeutics for the treatment of cancer. Usage of TCRs allows for targeting of intracellularly expressed and highly selective cancer antigens, but also requires a complex maturation process to increase the naturally low affinity and stability of TCRs. Even though TCR domains can be matured via phage and yeast display, these techniques share the disadvantages of non-human glycosylation patterns and the need for a later reformatting into the final bispecific format. Here, we describe the development and application of a Chinese Hamster Ovary (CHO) display for affinity engineering of TCRs in the context of the final bispecific TCR format. The recombinase-mediated cassette exchange (RCME)-based system allows for stable, single-copy integration of bispecific TCR molecules with high efficiency into a defined genetic locus of CHO cells. We used the system to isolate affinity-increased variants of bispecific T cell engaging receptor (TCER) molecules from a library encoding different CDR variants of a model TCR targeting preferentially expressed antigen in melanoma (PRAME). When expressed as a soluble protein, the selected TCER molecules exhibited strong reactivity against PRAME-positive tumor cells associated with a pronounced cytokine release from activated T cells. The obtained data support the usage of the CHO display-based maturation system for TCR affinity maturation in the context of the final bispecific TCER format.