Ovarian cancer is detectable from peripheral blood using machine learning over T-cell receptor repertoires.

The extraordinary diversity of T cells and B cells is critical for body maintenance. This diversity has an important role in protecting against tumor formation. In humans, the T-cell receptor (TCR) repertoire is generated through a striking stochastic process called V(D)J recombination, in which different gene segments are assembled and modified, leading to extensive variety. In ovarian cancer (OC), an unfortunate 80% of cases are detected late, leading to poor survival outcomes. However, when detected early, approximately 94% of patients live longer than 5 years after diagnosis. Thus, early detection is critical for patient survival. To determine whether the TCR repertoire obtained from peripheral blood is associated with tumor status, we collected blood samples from 85 women with or without OC and obtained TCR information. We then used machine learning to learn the characteristics of samples and to finally predict, over a set of unseen samples, whether the person is with or without OC. We successfully stratified the two groups, thereby associating the peripheral blood TCR repertoire with the formation of OC tumors. A careful study of the origin of the set of T cells most informative for the signature indicated the involvement of a specific invariant natural killer T (iNKT) clone and a specific mucosal-associated invariant T (MAIT) clone. Our findings here support the proposition that tumor-relevant signal is maintained by the immune system and is coded in the T-cell repertoire available in peripheral blood. It is also possible that the immune system detects tumors early enough for repertoire technologies to inform us near the beginning of tumor formation. Although such detection is made by the immune system, we might be able to identify it, using repertoire data from peripheral blood, to offer a pragmatic way to search for early signs of cancer with minimal patient burden, possibly with enhanced sensitivity.

Zuckerbrot-Schuldenfrei M, Aviel-Ronen S, Zilberberg A, Efroni S
Seven-chain adaptive immune receptor repertoire analysis in rheumatoid arthritis reveals novel features associated with disease and clinically relevant phenotypes.

In rheumatoid arthritis (RA), the activation of T and B cell clones specific for self-antigens leads to the chronic inflammation of the synovium. Here, we perform an in-depth quantitative analysis of the seven chains that comprise the adaptive immune receptor repertoire (AIRR) in RA.

Aterido A, López-Lasanta M, Blanco F, Juan-Mas A, García-Vivar ML, Erra A, Pérez-García C, Sánchez-Fernández SÁ, Sanmartí R, Fernández-Nebro A, Alperi-López M, Tornero J, Ortiz AM, Fernández-Cid CM, Palau N, Pan W, Byrne-Steele M, Starenki D, Weber D, Rodriguez-Nunez I, Han J, Myers RM, Marsal S, Julià A
The thymocyte-specific RNA-binding protein Arpp21 provides TCR repertoire diversity by binding to the 3'-UTR and promoting Rag1 mRNA expression.

The regulation of thymocyte development by RNA-binding proteins (RBPs) is largely unexplored. We identify 642 RBPs in the thymus and focus on Arpp21, which shows selective and dynamic expression in early thymocytes. Arpp21 is downregulated in response to T cell receptor (TCR) and Ca2+ signals. Downregulation requires Stim1/Stim2 and CaMK4 expression and involves Arpp21 protein phosphorylation, polyubiquitination and proteasomal degradation. Arpp21 directly binds RNA through its R3H domain, with a preference for uridine-rich motifs, promoting the expression of target mRNAs. Analysis of the Arpp21-bound transcriptome reveals strong interactions with the Rag1 3'-UTR. Arpp21-deficient thymocytes show reduced Rag1 expression, delayed TCR rearrangement and a less diverse TCR repertoire. This phenotype is recapitulated in Rag1 3'-UTR mutant mice harboring a deletion of the Arpp21 response region. These findings show how thymocyte-specific Arpp21 promotes Rag1 expression to enable TCR repertoire diversity until signals from the TCR terminate Arpp21 and Rag1 activities.

Xu M, Ito-Kureha T, Kang HS, Chernev A, Raj T, Hoefig KP, Hohn C, Giesert F, Wang Y, Pan W, Ziętara N, Straub T, Feederle R, Daniel C, Adler B, König J, Feske S, Tsokos GC, Wurst W, Urlaub H, Sattler M, Kisielow J, Wulczyn FG, Łyszkiewicz M, Heissmeyer V
Structural basis for self-discrimination by neoantigen-specific TCRs.

T cell receptors (TCR) are pivotal in mediating tumour cell cytolysis via recognition of mutation-derived tumour neoantigens (neoAgs) presented by major histocompatibility class-I (MHC-I). Understanding the factors governing the emergence of neoAg from somatic mutations is a major focus of current research. However, the structural and cellular determinants controlling TCR recognition of neoAgs remain poorly understood. This study describes the multi-level analysis of a model neoAg from the B16F10 murine melanoma, H2-Db/Hsf2 p.K72N68-76, as well as its cognate TCR 47BE7. Through cellular, molecular and structural studies we demonstrate that the p.K72N mutation enhances H2-Db binding, thereby improving cell surface presentation and stabilizing the TCR 47BE7 epitope. Furthermore, TCR 47BE7 exhibited high functional avidity and selectivity, attributable to a broad, stringent, binding interface enabling recognition of native B16F10 despite low antigen density. Our findings provide insight into the generation of anchor-residue modified neoAg, and emphasize the value of molecular and structural investigations of neoAg in diverse MHC-I contexts for advancing the understanding of neoAg immunogenicity.

Finnigan JP, Newman JH, Patskovsky Y, Patskovska L, Ishizuka AS, Lynn GM, Seder RA, Krogsgaard M, Bhardwaj N
ERG and c-MYC regulate a critical gene network in BCR::ABL1-driven B cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

Philadelphia chromosome-positive B cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (B-ALL), characterized by the BCR::ABL1 fusion gene, remains a poor prognosis cancer needing new therapeutic approaches. Transcriptomic profiling identified up-regulation of oncogenic transcription factors ERG and c-MYC in BCR::ABL1 B-ALL with ERG and c-MYC required for BCR::ABL1 B-ALL in murine and human models. Profiling of ERG- and c-MYC-dependent gene expression and analysis of ChIP-seq data established ERG and c-MYC coordinate a regulatory network in BCR::ABL1 B-ALL that controls expression of genes involved in several biological processes. Prominent was control of ribosome biogenesis, including expression of RNA polymerase I (POL I) subunits, the importance of which was validated by inhibition of BCR::ABL1 cells by POL I inhibitors, including CX-5461, that prevents promoter recruitment and transcription initiation by POL I. Our results reveal an essential ERG- and c-MYC-dependent transcriptional network involved in regulation of metabolic and ribosome biogenesis pathways in BCR::ABL1 B-ALL, from which previously unidentified vulnerabilities and therapeutic targets may emerge.

Behrens K, Brajanovski N, Xu Z, Viney EM, DiRago L, Hediyeh-Zadeh S, Davis MJ, Pearson RB, Sanij E, Alexander WS, Ng AP
Mtb HLA-E-tetramer-sorted CD8+ T cells have a diverse TCR repertoire.

HLA-E molecules can present self- and pathogen-derived peptides to both natural killer (NK) cells and T cells. T cells that recognize HLA-E peptides via their T cell receptor (TCR) are termed donor-unrestricted T cells due to restricted allelic variation of HLA-E. The composition and repertoire of HLA-E TCRs is not known so far. We performed TCR sequencing on CD8+ T cells from 21 individuals recognizing HLA-E tetramers (TMs) folded with two Mtb-HLA-E-restricted peptides. We sorted HLA-E Mtb TM+ and TM- CD8+ T cells directly ex vivo and performed bulk RNA-sequencing and single-cell TCR sequencing. The identified TCR repertoire was diverse and showed no conservation between and within individuals. TCRs selected from our single-cell TCR sequencing data could be activated upon HLA-E/peptide stimulation, although not robust, reflecting potentially weak interactions between HLA-E peptide complexes and TCRs. Thus, HLA-E-Mtb-specific T cells have a highly diverse TCR repertoire.

Voogd L, Drittij AMHF, Dingenouts CKE, Franken KLMC, Unen VV, van Meijgaarden KE, Ruibal P, Hagedoorn RS, Leitner JA, Steinberger P, Heemskerk MHM, Davis MM, Scriba TJ, Ottenhoff THM, Joosten SA
ExpoSeq: simplified analysis of high-throughput sequencing data from antibody discovery campaigns.

High-throughput sequencing (HTS) offers a modern, fast, and explorative solution to unveil the full potential of display techniques, like antibody phage display, in molecular biology. However, a significant challenge lies in the processing and analysis of such data. Furthermore, there is a notable absence of open-access user-friendly software tools that can be utilized by scientists lacking programming expertise. Here, we present ExpoSeq as an easy-to-use tool to explore, process, and visualize HTS data from antibody discovery campaigns like an expert while only requiring a beginner's knowledge.

Sørensen CV, Hofmann N, Rawat P, Sørensen FV, Ljungars A, Greiff V, Laustsen AH, Jenkins TP
Dynamic establishment of recipient resident memory T cell repertoire after human intestinal transplantation.

Understanding formation of the human tissue resident memory T cell (TRM) repertoire requires longitudinal access to human non-lymphoid tissues.

Jiao W, Martinez M, Muntnich CB, Zuber J, Parks C, Obradovic A, Tian G, Wang Z, Long KD, Waffarn E, Frangaj K, Jones R, Gorur A, Shonts B, Rogers K, Lv G, Velasco M, Ravella S, Weiner J, Kato T, Shen Y, Fu J, Sykes M
Chicken γδ T cells proliferate upon IL-2 and IL-12 treatment and show a restricted receptor repertoire in cell culture.

In chickens, γδ T cells represent a large fraction of peripheral T cells; however, their function remains largely unknown. Here, we describe the selective in vitro expansion of γδ T cells from total splenocytes by stimulation with the cytokines IL-2 and IL-12. Under these conditions, γδ T cells proliferated preferentially and reached frequencies of >95% within three weeks. Although IL-2 alone also triggered proliferation, an increased proliferation rate was observed in combination with IL-12. Most of the expanded cells were γδ TCR and CD8 double-positive. Splenocytes sorted into TCR1+CD8+, TCR1highCD8-, and TCR1lowCD8- subsets proliferated well upon dual stimulation with IL-2/IL-12, indicating that none of the three γδ T cell subsets require bystander activation for proliferation. TCR1+CD8+ cells maintained CD8 surface expression during stimulation, whereas CD8- subpopulations showed varied levels of CD8 upregulation, with the highest upregulation observed in the TCR1high subset. Changes in the γδ T-cell receptor repertoire during cell culture from day 0 to day 21 were analyzed by next-generation sequencing of the γδ variable regions. Overall, long-term culture led to a restricted γ and δ chain repertoire, characterized by a reduced number of unique variable region clonotypes, and specific V genes were enriched at day 21. On day 0, the δ chain repertoire was highly diverse, and the predominant clonotypes differed between animals, while the most frequent γ-chain clonotypes were shared between animals. However, on day 21, the most frequent clonotypes in both the γ and δ chain repertoires were different between animals, indicating that selective expansion of dominant clonotypes during stimulation seems to be an individual outcome. In conclusion, IL-2 and IL-12 were sufficient to stimulate the in vitro outgrowth of γδ T cells. Analyses of the TCR repertoire indicate that the culture leads to an expansion of individual T cell clones, which may reflect previous in vivo activation. This system will be instrumental in studying γδ T cell function.

Linti AE, Göbel TW, Früh SP
Gene-expression-based T-Cell-to-Stroma Enrichment (TSE) score predicts response to immune checkpoint inhibitors in urothelial cancer.

Immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICI) improve overall survival in patients with metastatic urothelial cancer (mUC), but therapeutic success at the individual patient level varies significantly. Here we identify predictive markers of response, based on whole-genome DNA (n = 70) and RNA-sequencing (n = 41) of fresh metastatic biopsy samples, collected prior to treatment with pembrolizumab. We find that PD-L1 combined positivity score does not, whereas tumor mutational burden and APOBEC mutagenesis modestly predict response. In contrast, T cell-to-stroma enrichment (TSE) score, computed from gene expression signature data to capture the relative abundance of T cells and stromal cells, predicts response to immunotherapy with high accuracy. Patients with a positive and negative TSE score show progression free survival rates at 6 months of 67 and 0%, respectively. The abundance of T cells and stromal cells, as reflected by the TSE score is confirmed by immunofluorescence in tumor tissue, and its good performance in two independent ICI-treated cohorts of patients with mUC (IMvigor210) and muscle-invasive UC (ABACUS) validate the predictive power of the TSE score. In conclusion, the TSE score represents a clinically applicable metric that potentially supports the prospective selection of patients with mUC for ICI treatment.

Rijnders M, Nakauma-González JA, Robbrecht DGJ, Gil-Jimenez A, Balcioglu HE, Oostvogels AAM, Aarts MJB, Boormans JL, Hamberg P, van der Heijden MS, Szabados BE, van Leenders GJLH, Mehra N, Voortman J, Westgeest HM, de Wit R, van der Veldt AAM, Debets R, Lolkema MP
Blood transcriptomics analysis offers insights into variant-specific immune response to SARS-CoV-2.

Bulk RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) of blood is typically used for gene expression analysis in biomedical research but is still rarely used in clinical practice. In this study, we propose that RNA-seq should be considered a diagnostic tool, as it offers not only insights into aberrant gene expression and splicing but also delivers additional readouts on immune cell type composition as well as B-cell and T-cell receptor (BCR/TCR) repertoires. We demonstrate that RNA-seq offers insights into a patient's immune status via integrative analysis of RNA-seq data from patients infected with various SARS-CoV-2 variants (in total 196 samples with up to 200 million reads sequencing depth). We compare the results of computational cell-type deconvolution methods (e.g., MCP-counter, xCell, EPIC, quanTIseq) to complete blood count data, the current gold standard in clinical practice. We observe varying levels of lymphocyte depletion and significant differences in neutrophil levels between SARS-CoV-2 variants. Additionally, we identify B and T cell receptor (BCR/TCR) sequences using the tools MiXCR and TRUST4 to show that-combined with sequence alignments and BLASTp-they could be used to classify a patient's disease. Finally, we investigated the sequencing depth required for such analyses and concluded that 10 million reads per sample is sufficient. In conclusion, our study reveals that computational cell-type deconvolution and BCR/TCR methods using bulk RNA-seq analyses can supplement missing CBC data and offer insights into immune responses, disease severity, and pathogen-specific immunity, all achievable with a sequencing depth of 10 million reads per sample.

Hoffmann M, Willruth LL, Dietrich A, Lee HK, Knabl L, Trummer N, Baumbach J, Furth PA, Hennighausen L, List M
Mutation-specific CAR T cells as precision therapy for IGLV3-21R110 expressing high-risk chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

The concept of precision cell therapy targeting tumor-specific mutations is appealing but requires surface-exposed neoepitopes, which is a rarity in cancer. B cell receptors (BCR) of mature lymphoid malignancies are exceptional in that they harbor tumor-specific-stereotyped sequences in the form of point mutations that drive self-engagement of the BCR and autologous signaling. Here, we use a BCR light chain neoepitope defined by a characteristic point mutation (IGLV3-21R110) for selective targeting of a poor-risk subset of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) with chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells. We develop murine and humanized CAR constructs expressed in T cells from healthy donors and CLL patients that eradicate IGLV3-21R110 expressing cell lines and primary CLL cells, but neither cells expressing the non-pathogenic IGLV3-21G110 light chain nor polyclonal healthy B cells. In vivo experiments confirm epitope-selective cytolysis in xenograft models in female mice using engrafted IGLV3-21R110 expressing cell lines or primary CLL cells. We further demonstrate in two humanized mouse models lack of cytotoxicity towards human B cells. These data provide the basis for advanced approaches of resistance-preventive and biomarker-guided cellular targeting of functionally relevant lymphoma driver mutations sparing normal B cells.

Märkl F, Schultheiß C, Ali M, Chen SS, Zintchenko M, Egli L, Mietz J, Chijioke O, Paschold L, Spajic S, Holtermann A, Dörr J, Stock S, Zingg A, Läubli H, Piseddu I, Anz D, Minden MD, Zhang T, Nerreter T, Hudecek M, Minguet S, Chiorazzi N, Kobold S, Binder M