mRNA COVID-19 vaccine elicits potent adaptive immune response without the acute inflammation of SARS-CoV-2 infection
SARS-CoV-2 infection and vaccination elicit potent immune responses. Our study presents a comprehensive multimodal single-cell analysis of blood from COVID-19 patients and healthy volunteers receiving the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine and booster. We profiled immune responses via transcriptional analysis and lymphocyte repertoire reconstruction. COVID-19 patients displayed an enhanced interferon signature and cytotoxic gene upregulation, absent in vaccine recipients. B and T cell repertoire analysis revealed clonal expansion among effector cells in COVID-19 patients and memory cells in vaccine recipients. Furthermore, while clonal Î±Î² T cell responses were observed in both COVID-19 patients and vaccine recipients, expansion of clonal Î³Î´ T cells was found only in infected individuals. Our dataset enables side-by-side comparison of immune responses to infection versus vaccination, including clonal B and T cell responses. Our comparative analysis shows that vaccination induces a robust, durable clonal B and T cell responses, without the severe inflammation associated with infection.
The expression profile and tumorigenic mechanisms of CD97 (ADGRE5) in glioblastoma render it a targetable vulnerability
Glioblastoma (GBM) is the most common and aggressive primary brain malignancy. Adhesion G protein-coupled receptors (aGPCRs) have attracted interest for their potential as treatment targets. Here, we show that CD97 (ADGRE5) is the most promising aGPCR target in GBM, by virtue of its de novo expression compared to healthy brain tissue. CD97 knockdown or knockout significantly reduces the tumor initiation capacity of patient-derived GBM cultures (PDGCs) in vitro and in vivo. We find that CD97 promotes glycolytic metabolism via the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway, which depends on phosphorylation of its C terminus and recruitment of β-arrestin. We also demonstrate that THY1/CD90 is a likely CD97 ligand in GBM. Lastly, we show that an anti-CD97 antibody-drug conjugate selectively kills tumor cells in vitro. Our studies identify CD97 as a regulator of tumor metabolism, elucidate mechanisms of receptor activation and signaling, and provide strong scientific rationale for developing biologics to target it therapeutically in GBM.
Phosphorylation-dependent pseudokinase domain dimerization drives full-length MLKL oligomerization
The necroptosis pathway is a lytic, pro-inflammatory mode of cell death that is widely implicated in human disease, including renal, pulmonary, gut and skin inflammatory pathologies. The precise mechanism of the terminal steps in the pathway, where the RIPK3 kinase phosphorylates and triggers a conformation change and oligomerization of the terminal pathway effector, MLKL, are only emerging. Here, we structurally identify RIPK3-mediated phosphorylation of the human MLKL activation loop as a cue for MLKL pseudokinase domain dimerization. MLKL pseudokinase domain dimerization subsequently drives formation of elongated homotetramers. Negative stain electron microscopy and modelling support nucleation of the MLKL tetramer assembly by a central coiled coil formed by the extended, ~80 Å brace helix that connects the pseudokinase and executioner four-helix bundle domains. Mutational data assert MLKL tetramerization as an essential prerequisite step to enable the release and reorganization of four-helix bundle domains for membrane permeabilization and cell death.
Discrete immune response signature to SARS-CoV-2 mRNA vaccination versus infection
Both SARS-CoV-2 infection and vaccination elicit potent immune responses. A number of studies have described immune responses to SARS-CoV-2 infection. However, beyond antibody production, immune responses to COVID-19 vaccines remain largely uncharacterized. Here, we performed multimodal single-cell sequencing on peripheral blood of patients with acute COVID-19 and healthy volunteers before and after receiving the SARS-CoV-2 BNT162b2 mRNA vaccine to compare the immune responses elicited by the virus and by this vaccine. Phenotypic and transcriptional profiling of immune cells, coupled with reconstruction of the B and T cell antigen receptor rearrangement of individual lymphocytes, enabled us to characterize and compare the host responses to the virus and to defined viral antigens. While both infection and vaccination induced robust innate and adaptive immune responses, our analysis revealed significant qualitative differences between the two types of immune challenges. In COVID-19 patients, immune responses were characterized by a highly augmented interferon response which was largely absent in vaccine recipients. Increased interferon signaling likely contributed to the observed dramatic upregulation of cytotoxic genes in the peripheral T cells and innate-like lymphocytes in patients but not in immunized subjects. Analysis of B and T cell receptor repertoires revealed that while the majority of clonal B and T cells in COVID-19 patients were effector cells, in vaccine recipients clonally expanded cells were primarily circulating memory cells. Importantly, the divergence in immune subsets engaged, the transcriptional differences in key immune populations, and the differences in maturation of adaptive immune cells revealed by our analysis have far-ranging implications for immunity to this novel pathogen.
Exploring switch II pocket conformation of KRAS(G12D) with mutant-selective monobody inhibitors
The G12D mutation is among the most common KRAS mutations associated with cancer, in particular, pancreatic cancer. Here, we have developed monobodies, small synthetic binding proteins, that are selective to KRAS(G12D) over KRAS(wild type) and other oncogenic KRAS mutations, as well as over the G12D mutation in HRAS and NRAS. Crystallographic studies revealed that, similar to other KRAS mutant-selective inhibitors, the initial monobody bound to the S-II pocket, the groove between switch II and α3 helix, and captured this pocket in the most widely open form reported to date. Unlike other G12D-selective polypeptides reported to date, the monobody used its backbone NH group to directly recognize the side chain of KRAS Asp12, a feature that closely resembles that of a small-molecule inhibitor, MTRX1133. The monobody also directly interacted with H95, a residue not conserved in RAS isoforms. These features rationalize the high selectivity toward the G12D mutant and the KRAS isoform. Structure-guided affinity maturation resulted in monobodies with low nM K
Use of Phage Display and Other Molecular Display Methods for the Development of Monobodies
Synthetic binding proteins are human-made binding proteins that use non-antibody proteins as the starting scaffold. Molecular display technologies, such as phage display, enable the construction of large combinatorial libraries and their efficient sorting and, thus, are crucial for the development of synthetic binding proteins. Monobodies are the founding system of a set of synthetic binding proteins based on the fibronectin type III (FN3) domain. Since the original report in 1998, the monobody and related FN3-based systems have steadily been refined, and current methods are capable of rapidly generating potent and selective binding molecules to even challenging targets. The FN3 domain is small (∼90 amino acids) and autonomous and is structurally similar to the conventional immunoglobulin (Ig) domain. Unlike the Ig domain, however, the FN3 lacks a disulfide bond but is highly stable. These attributes of FN3 present unique opportunities and challenges in the design of phage and other display systems, combinatorial libraries, and library sorting strategies. This article reviews key technological innovations in the establishment of our monobody development pipeline, with an emphasis on phage display methodology. These give insights into the molecular mechanisms underlying molecular display technologies and protein-protein interactions, which should be broadly applicable to diverse systems intended for generating high-performance binding proteins.
Monobody Inhibitor Selective to the Phosphatase Domain of SHP2 and its Use as a Probe for Quantifying SHP2 Allosteric Regulation
SHP2 is a phosphatase/adaptor protein that plays an important role in various signaling pathways. Its mutations are associated with cancers and developmental diseases. SHP2 contains a protein tyrosine phosphatase (PTP) and two SH2 domains. Selective inhibition of these domains has been challenging due to the multitude of homologous proteins in the proteome. Here, we developed a monobody, synthetic binding protein, that bound to and inhibited the SHP2 PTP domain. It was selective to SHP2 PTP over close homologs. A crystal structure of the monobody-PTP complex revealed that the monobody bound both highly conserved residues in the active site and less conserved residues in the periphery, rationalizing its high selectivity. Its epitope overlapped with the interface between the PTP and N-terminal SH2 domains that is formed in auto-inhibited SHP2. By using the monobody as a probe for the accessibility of the PTP active site, we developed a simple, nonenzymatic assay for the allosteric regulation of SHP2. The assay showed that, in the absence of an activating phospho-Tyr ligand, wild-type SHP2 and the "PTP-dead" C459E mutant were predominantly in the closed state in which the PTP active site is inaccessible, whereas the E76K and C459S mutants were in the open, active state. It also revealed that previously developed monobodies to the SH2 domains, ligands lacking a phospho-Tyr, weakly favored the open state. These results provide corroboration for a conformational equilibrium underlying allosteric regulation of SHP2, provide powerful tools for characterizing and controlling SHP2 functions, and inform drug discovery against SHP2.
Creating MHC-restricted neoantigens with covalent inhibitors that can be targeted by immune therapy
Intracellular oncoproteins can be inhibited with targeted therapy, but responses are not durable. Immune therapies can be curative, but most oncogene-driven tumors are unresponsive to these agents. Fragments of intracellular oncoproteins can act as neoantigens presented by the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) but recognizing minimal differences between oncoproteins and their normal counterparts is challenging. We have established a platform technology that exploits hapten-peptide conjugates generated by covalent inhibitors to create distinct neoantigens that selectively mark cancer cells. Using the FDA-approved covalent inhibitors sotorasib and osimertinib, we developed "HapImmuneTM" antibodies that bind to drug-peptide conjugate/MHC complexes but not to the free drugs. A HapImmuneTM-based bispecific T cell engager selectively and potently kills sotorasib-resistant lung cancer cells upon sotorasib treatment. Notably, it is effective against KRASG12C mutant cells with different HLA supertypes, HLA-A*02 and A*03/11, suggesting loosening of MHC restriction. Our strategy creates targetable neoantigens by design, unifying targeted and immune therapies.
Inhibition of RAS-driven signaling and tumorigenesis with a pan-RAS monobody targeting the Switch I/II pocket
RAS mutants are major therapeutic targets in oncology with few efficacious direct inhibitors available. The identification of a shallow pocket near the Switch II region on RAS has led to the development of small-molecule drugs that target this site and inhibit KRAS(G12C) and KRAS(G12D). To discover other regions on RAS that may be targeted for inhibition, we have employed small synthetic binding proteins termed monobodies that have a strong propensity to bind to functional sites on a target protein. Here, we report a pan-RAS monobody, termed JAM20, that bound to all RAS isoforms with nanomolar affinity and demonstrated limited nucleotide-state specificity. Upon intracellular expression, JAM20 potently inhibited signaling mediated by all RAS isoforms and reduced oncogenic RAS-mediated tumorigenesis inÂ vivo. NMR and mutation analysis determined that JAM20 bound to a pocket between Switch I and II, which is similarly targeted by low-affinity, small-molecule inhibitors, such as BI-2852, whose inÂ vivo efficacy has not been demonstrated. Furthermore, JAM20 directly competed with both the RAF(RBD) and BI-2852. These results provide direct validation of targeting the Switch I/II pocket for inhibiting RAS-driven tumorigenesis. More generally, these results demonstrate the utility of tool biologics as probes for discovering and validating druggable sites on challenging targets.
Monobody adapter for functional antibody display on nanoparticles for adaptable targeted delivery applications
Vascular endothelial cells (ECs) play a central role in the pathophysiology of many diseases. The use of targeted nanoparticles (NPs) to deliver therapeutics to ECs could dramatically improve efficacy by providing elevated and sustained intracellular drug levels. However, achieving sufficient levels of NP targeting in human settings remains elusive. Here, we overcome this barrier by engineering a monobody adapter that presents antibodies on the NP surface in a manner that fully preserves their antigen-binding function. This system improves targeting efficacy in cultured ECs under flow by >1000-fold over conventional antibody immobilization using amine coupling and enables robust delivery of NPs to the ECs of human kidneys undergoing ex vivo perfusion, a clinical setting used for organ transplant. Our monobody adapter also enables a simple plug-and-play capacity that facilitates the evaluation of a diverse array of targeted NPs. This technology has the potential to simplify and possibly accelerate both the development and clinical translation of EC-targeted nanomedicines.