2018

Türeci Ö, Löwer M, Schrörs B, Lang M, Tadmor A, Sahin U. (2018) Challenges towards the realization of individualized cancer vaccines. Nat Biomed Eng.  July 30;19:747.

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Bringing truly personalized cancer vaccination with tumour neoantigens to the clinic will require overcoming the challenges of optimized vaccine design, manufacturing and affordability, and identification of the most suitable clinical setting.

Boegel S, Bukur T, Castle JC, Sahin U (2018) In Silico Typing of Classical and Non-classical HLA Alleles from Standard RNA-Seq Reads Methods Mol Biol. 2018;1802:177-191.

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Next-Generation Sequencing (NGS) enables the rapid generation of billions of short nucleic acid sequence fragments (i.e., “sequencing reads”). Especially, the adoption of gene expression profiling using whole transcriptome sequencing (i.e., “RNA-Seq”) has been rapid. Here, we describe an in silico method, seq2HLA, that takes standard RNA-Seq reads as input and determines a sample’s (classical and non-classical) HLA class I and class II types as well as HLA expression. We demonstrate the application of seq2HLA using publicly available RNA-Seq data from the Burkitt’s lymphoma cell line DAUDI and the choriocarcinoma cell line JEG-3. 

Schumacher J, Bacic T, Staritzbichler R, Daneschdar M, Klamp T, Arnold P, Jägle S, Türeci Ö, Markl J, Sahin U (2018) Enhanced stability of a chimeric hepatitis B core antigen virus-like-particle (HBcAg-VLP) by a C-terminal linker-hexahistidine-peptide. J Nanobiotechnology. Apr 13;16(1):39.

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BACKGROUND: Virus-like-particles (VLPs) are attractive nanoparticulate scaffolds for broad applications in material/biological sciences and medicine. Prior their functionalization, specific adaptations have to be carried out. These adjustments frequently lead to disordered particles, but the particle integrity is an essential factor for the VLP suitability. Therefore, major requirements for particle stabilization exist. The objective of this study was to evaluate novel stabilizing elements for functionalized chimeric hepatitis B virus core antigen virus-like particles (HBcAg-VLP), with beneficial characteristics for vaccine development, imaging or delivery.

RESULTS:
The effects of a carboxy-terminal polyhistidine-peptide and an intradimer disulfide-bridge on the stability of preclinically approved chimeric HBcAg-VLPs were assessed. We purified recombinant chimeric HBcAg-VLPs bearing different modified C-termini and compared their physical and chemical particle stability by quantitative protein-biochemical and biophysical techniques. We observed lower chemical resistance of T = 3- compared to T = 4-VLP (triangulation number) capsids and profound impairment of accessibility of hexahistidine-peptides in assembled VLPs. Histidines attached to the C-terminus were associated with superior mechanical and/or chemical particle stability depending on the number of histidine moieties. A molecular modeling approach based on cryo-electron microscopy and biolayer interferometry revealed the underlying structural mechanism for the strengthening of the integrity of VLPs. Interactions triggering capsid stabilization occur on a highly conserved residue on the basis of HBcAg-monomers as well as on hexahistidine-peptides of adjacent monomers. This new stabilization mechanism appears to mimic an evolutionary conserved stabilization concept for hepadnavirus core proteins.

CONCLUSIONS:
These findings establish the genetically simply transferable C-terminal polyhistidine-peptide as a general stabilizing element for chimeric HBcAg-VLPs to increase their suitability.

Bidmon N, Kind S, Welters MJP, Joseph-Pietras D, Laske K, Maurer D, Hadrup SR, Schreibelt G, Rae R, Sahin U, Gouttefangeas C, Britten CM, van der Burg SH (2018) Development of an RNA-based kit for easy generation of TCR-engineered lymphocytes to control T-cell assay performance. J Immunol Methods. Apr 20. pii: S0022-1759(18)30025-5

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Cell-based assays to monitor antigen-specific T-cell responses are characterized by their high complexity and should be conducted under controlled conditions to lower multiple possible sources of assay variation. However, the lack of standard reagents makes it difficult to directly compare results generated in one lab over time and across institutions. Therefore TCR-engineered reference samples (TERS) that contain a defined number of antigen-specific T cells and continuously deliver stable results are urgently needed. We successfully established a simple and robust TERS technology that constitutes a useful tool to overcome this issue for commonly used T-cell immuno-assays. To enable users to generate large-scale TERS, on-site using the most commonly used electroporation (EP) devices, an RNA-based kit approach, providing stable TCR mRNA and an optimized manufacturing protocol were established. In preparation for the release of this immuno-control kit, we established optimal EP conditions on six devices and initiated an extended RNA stability study. Furthermore, we coordinated on-site production of TERS with 4 participants. Finally, a proficiency panel was organized to test the unsupervised production of TERS at different laboratories using the kit approach. The results obtained show the feasibility and robustness of the kit approach for versatile in-house production of cellular control samples.

Boegel S, Löwer M, Bukur T, Sorn P, Castle J, Sahin U. (2018) HLA and proteasome expression body map. BMC Medical Genomics 2018; 11:36

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Background: The presentation of HLA peptide complexes to T cells is a highly regulated and tissue specific process involving multiple transcriptionally controlled cellular components. The extensive polymorphism of HLA genes and the complex composition of the proteasome make it difficult to map their expression profiles across tissues.
Methods: Here we applied a tailored gene quantification pipeline to 4323 publicly available RNA-Seq datasets representing 55 normal tissues and cell types to examine expression profiles of (classical and non-classical) HLA class I, class II and proteasomal genes.
Results: We generated the first comprehensive expression atlas of antigen presenting-related genes across 56 normal tissues and cell types, including immune cells, pancreatic islets, platelets and hematopoietic stem cells. We found a surprisingly heterogeneous HLA expression pattern with up to 100-fold difference in intra-tissue median HLA abundances. Cells of the immune system and lymphatic organs expressed the highest levels of classical HLA class I (HLA-A,-B,-C), class II (HLA-DQA1,-DQB1,-DPA1,-DPB1,-DRA,-DRB1) and non-classical HLA class I (HLA-E,-F) molecules, whereas retina, brain, muscle, megakaryocytes and erythroblasts showed the lowest abundance. In contrast, we identified a distinct and highly tissue-restricted expression pattern of the non-classical class I gene HLA-G in placenta, pancreatic islets, pituitary gland and testis. While the constitutive proteasome showed relatively constant expression across all tissues, we found the immunoproteasome to be enriched in lymphatic organs and almost absent in immune privileged tissues.
Conclusions: Here, we not only provide a reference catalog of tissue and cell type specific HLA expression, but also highlight extremely variable expression of the basic components of antigen processing and presentation in different cell types. Our findings indicate that low expression of classical HLA class I molecules together with lack of immunoproteasome components as well as upregulation of HLA-G may be of key relevance to maintain tolerance in immune privileged tissues.

Sahin U, Türeci Ö: Personalized vaccines for cancer immunotherapy. Science.  2018 Mar 23; 359(6382):1355-1360.

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Cancer is characterized by an accumulation of genetic alterations. Somatic mutations can generate cancer-specific neoepitopes that are recognized by autologous T cells as foreign and constitute ideal cancer vaccine targets. Every tumor has its own unique composition of mutations, with only a small fraction shared between patients. Technological advances in genomics, data science, and cancer immunotherapy now enable the rapid mapping of the mutations within a genome, rational selection of vaccine targets, and on-demand production of a therapy customized to a patient’s individual tumor. First-in-human clinical trials of personalized cancer vaccines have shown the feasibility, safety, and immunotherapeutic activity of targeting individual tumor mutation signatures. With vaccination development being promoted by emerging innovations of the digital age, vaccinating a patient with individual tumor mutations may become the first truly personalized treatment for cancer.

Diken M, Chu KK, Brodsky AN. (2018) Translating Science into Survival: Report on the Third International Cancer Immunotherapy Conference. Cancer Immunol Res. 2018 Jan;6(1):10-13. doi: 10.1158/2326-6066.CIR-17-0656.

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On September 6 to 9, 2017, in Mainz, Germany, the Third International Cancer Immunotherapy Conference was hosted jointly by the Cancer Research Institute, the Association for Cancer Immunotherapy, the European Academy of Tumor Immunology, and the American Association for Cancer Research. For the third straight year, more than 1,400 people attended the four-day event, which covered the latest advances in cancer immunology and immunotherapy. This report provides an overview of the main topics discussed.