5 years ago

Modularly Constructed Synthetic Granzyme B Molecule Enables Interrogation of Intracellular Proteases for Targeted Cytotoxicity

Modularly Constructed Synthetic Granzyme B Molecule Enables Interrogation of Intracellular Proteases for Targeted Cytotoxicity
Christopher Ede, Patrick Ho, Yvonne Y. Chen
Targeted therapies promise to increase the safety and efficacy of treatments against diseases ranging from cancer to viral infections. However, the vast majority of targeted therapeutics relies on the recognition of extracellular biomarkers, which are rarely restricted to diseased cells and are thus prone to severe and sometimes-fatal off-target toxicities. In contrast, intracellular antigens present a diverse yet underutilized repertoire of disease markers. Here, we report a protein-based therapeutic platform—termed Cytoplasmic Oncoprotein VErifier and Response Trigger (COVERT)—which enables the interrogation of intracellular proteases to trigger targeted cytotoxicity. COVERT molecules consist of the cytotoxic protein granzyme B (GrB) fused to an inhibitory N-terminal peptide, which can be removed by researcher-specified proteases to activate GrB function. We demonstrate that fusion of a small ubiquitin-like modifier 1 (SUMO1) protein to GrB yields a SUMO-GrB molecule that is specifically activated by the cancer-associated sentrin-specific protease 1 (SENP1). SUMO-GrB selectively triggers apoptotic phenotypes in HEK293T cells that overexpress SENP1, and it is highly sensitive to different SENP1 levels across cell lines. We further demonstrate the rational design of additional COVERT molecules responsive to enterokinase (EK) and tobacco etch virus protease (TEVp), highlighting the COVERT platform’s modularity and adaptability to diverse protease targets. As an initial step toward engineering COVERT-T cells for adoptive T-cell therapy, we verified that primary human T cells can express, package, traffic, and deliver engineered GrB molecules in response to antigen stimulation. Our findings set the foundation for future intracellular-antigen-responsive therapeutics that can complement surface-targeted therapies.

Publisher URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/acssynbio.6b00392

DOI: 10.1021/acssynbio.6b00392

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