To evaluate the immunotherapeutic efficacy of recombinant T cell receptor ligands (RTLs) specific for arrestin immunity in treatment of experimental autoimmune uveitis (EAU) in humanized leukocyte antigen (HLA-DR3) transgenic (Tg) mice.
We generated de novo recombinant human DR3-derived RTLs bearing covalently tethered arrestin peptides 291–310 (RTL351) or 305–324 (RTL352). EAU was induced by immunization of HLA-DR3 mice with arrestin or arrestin peptide and treated with RTLs by subcutaneous delivery. T cell proliferation and cytokine expression was measured in RTL-treated and control mice.
RTL351 prevented the migration of cells outside of the spleen and the recruitment of inflammatory cells into the eye, and provided full protection against inflammation from EAU induced with arrestin or arrestin peptides. RTL351 significantly inhibited T cell proliferation and secretion of inflammatory cytokines interleukin 2 (IL-2), interferon γ (IFN-γ), IL-6, and IL-17 and chemokines (macrophage inflammatory proteins [MIP-1a] and regulated and normal T cell expressed and secreted [RANTES]), which is in agreement with the suppression of intraocular inflammation. RTL350 (“empty,” no peptide) and RTL352 were not effective.
Immunotherapy with a single RTL351 successfully prevented and treated arrestin-induced EAU in HLA-DR3 mice and provided proof of concept for therapy of autoimmune uveitis in human patients. The beneficial effects of RTL351 should be attributed to a significant decrease in Th1/Th17 mediated inflammation.
Successful therapies for autoimmune uveitis must specifically inhibit pathogenic inflammation without inducing generalized immunosuppression. RTLs can offer such an option. The single retina-specific RTLs may have a value as potential immunotherapeutic drug for human autoimmune uveitis because they effectively prevent disease induced by multiple T cell specificities.
experimental autoimmune uveitis; immunotherapy; inflammation
We previously demonstrated the therapeutic effects of MHC class II derived recombinant T cell receptor ligands (RTL), single-chain two domain complexes of the α1 and β1 domains of MHC class II molecules genetically linked with an immunodominant peptide, in experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis. In the current study, we produced a monomeric murine I-Aq-derived RTL construct covalently linked with bovine collagen type II peptide (bCII257–270) suitable for use in DBA/1LacJ mice that develop collagen-induced arthritis (CIA), an animal model of human rheumatoid arthritis, after immunization with bCII protein in CFA. In this study, we demonstrate that the I-Aq-derived RTLs reduced the incidence of the disease, suppressed the clinical and histological signs of CIA and induced long-term modulation of T cells specific for arthritogenic Ags. Our results showed that the I-Aq/bCII257–270 molecule could systemically reduce proinflammatory IL-17 and IFN-γ production and significantly increase anti-inflammatory IL-10, IL-13, and FoxP3 gene expression in splenocytes. Moreover, I-Aq/bCII257–270 molecule could also selectively inhibit IL-1β, IL-6, and IL-23 expression in local joint tissue. This is the first report demonstrating effective prevention of joint inflammation and clinical signs of CIA with an I-Aq-derived RTL, thus supporting the possible clinical use of this approach for treating rheumatoid arthritis in humans.
Human autoimmune disease involves local activation of antigen-specific CD4+ T cells that produce inflammatory Th1 cytokines leading to the further recruitment and activation of lymphocytes and monocytes, resulting ultimately in the destruction of target tissue. Antigen presenting cells (APCs) initiate activation of CD4+ T cells in a multistep process that minimally involves co-ligation of the TCR and CD4 by the MHC class II/peptide complex and costimulation through additional T cell surface molecules such as CD28. Disruption of this highly orchestrated series of events can result in the direct modulation of CD4+ T cell behavior. The interaction between MHC and TCR holds unique promise as a focal point for therapeutic intervention in the pathology of CD4+ T cell-mediated diseases, and MHC class II-derived Recombinant TCR Ligands (“RTLs”) have emerged as a new class of therapeutics with potent clinical efficacy in a diverse set of animal models for multiple sclerosis. Here I review the systemic effect that RTL therapy has on the intact immune system and present an overview of a molecular mechanism by which RTL therapy could induce these systemic changes.
Recombinant TCR ligand; EAE; T lymphocytes; Immunoregulation; MHC/peptides; multiple sclerosis; T cell receptor
Single-chain human recombinant T cell receptor ligands derived from the peptide binding/TCR recognition domain of human HLA-DR2b (DRA*0101/DRB1*1501) produced in Escherichia coli with and without amino-terminal extensions containing antigenic peptides have been described previously. While molecules with the native sequence retained biological activity, they formed higher order aggregates in solution. In this study, we used site-directed mutagenesis to modify the β-sheet platform of the DR2-derived RTLs, obtaining two variants that were monomeric in solution by replacing hydrophobic residues with polar (serine) or charged (aspartic acid) residues. Size exclusion chromatography and dynamic light scattering demonstrated that the modified RTLs were monomeric in solution, and structural characterization using circular dichroism demonstrated the highly ordered secondary structure of the RTLs. Peptide binding to the `empty' RTLs was quantified using biotinylated peptides, and functional studies showed that the modified RTLs containing covalently tethered peptides were able to inhibit antigen-specific T cell proliferation in vitro, as well as suppress experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis in vivo. These studies demonstrated that RTLs encoding the Ag-binding/TCR recognition domain of MHC class II molecules are innately very robust structures, capable of retaining potent biological activity separate from the Ig-fold domains of the progenitor class II structure, with prevention of aggregation accomplished by modification of an exposed surface that was buried in the progenitor structure.
major histocompatibility complex; protein structure; drug design; autoimmunity
This study examined the neuroprotective effects of T-cell receptor ligand (RTL) on autoimmune optic neuritis in humanized HLA-DR3 mice. Such immunotherapy significantly suppressed inflammation, inhibited demyelination with signs of myelin recovery, and prevented axonal loss in the optic nerves.
Optic neuritis (ON) is a condition involving primary inflammation, demyelination, and axonal injury in the optic nerve and leads to apoptotic retinal ganglion cell (RGC) death, which contributes to the persistence of visual loss. Currently, ON has no effective treatment. The goal was to determine the effectiveness of immunotherapy with recombinant T-cell receptor ligand (RTL) in preventing ON in humanized HLA-DR2 transgenic mice.
Experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) was induced with myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein in humanized HLA-DR2 (DRβ1*1501) transgenic mice. Five consecutive doses of RTL342M were administrated at the onset of ON. The development of autoimmune ON was assessed by histopathology at different time points. The levels of myelin loss, axonal loss, and RGC damage were examined by immunofluorescence.
HLA-DR2 mice developed chronic ON 2 days before EAE characterized by progressive neurodegeneration in both organs. RTL342M significantly suppressed inflammation in the optic nerve and spinal cord and provided protection for at least 30 days. Examination of myelin loss showed a marked suppression of demyelination and an increase in myelin recovery in the optic nerve. Moreover, RTL342M treatment revealed a neuroprotective effect on optic nerve axons and RGCs in retinas at postimmunization (PI) day 62.
RTL342M suppressed clinical and histologic signs of EAE/ON by preventing the recruitment of inflammatory cells into the optic nerve and showed neuroprotective effects against ON. However, to achieve full therapeutic benefit, more doses may be needed. These findings suggest a possible clinical application of this novel class of T-cell-tolerizing drugs for patients with optic neuritis.
Stroke induces a biphasic effect on the peripheral immune response that involves early activation of peripheral leukocytes followed by severe immunosuppression and atrophy of the spleen. Peripheral immune cells, including T lymphocytes, migrate to the brain and exacerbate the developing infarct. Recombinant T-cell receptor (TCR) Ligand (RTL)551 is designed as a partial TCR agonist for myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein (MOG)-reactive T cells and has demonstrated the capacity to limit infarct volume and inflammation in brain when administered to mice undergoing middle cerebral artery occlusion (MCAO). The goal of this study was to determine if RTL551 could retain protection when given within the therapeutically relevant 4h time window currently in clinical practice for stroke patients. RTL551 was administered subcutaneously 4h after MCAO, with repeated doses every 24h until the time of euthanasia. Cell numbers were assessed in the brain, blood, spleen and lymph nodes and infarct size was measured after 24 and 96h reperfusion. RTL551 reduced infarct size in both cortex and striatum at 24h and in cortex at 96h after MCAO and inhibited the accumulation of inflammatory cells in brain at both time points. At 24h post-MCAO, RTL551 reduced the frequency of the activation marker, CD44, on T-cells in blood and in the ischemic hemisphere. Moreover, RTL551 reduced expression of the chemokine receptors, CCR5 in lymph nodes and spleen, and CCR7 in the blood and lymph nodes. These data demonstrate effective treatment of experimental stroke with RTL551 within a therapeutically relevant 4h time window through immune regulation of myelin-reactive inflammatory T-cells.
MHC class II-derived recombinant T cell receptor ligands (RTLs) modulate the behavior of pathogenic T cells and can reverse clinical and histological signs of autoimmune disease in experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), experimental autoimmune uveitis (EAU) and collagen-induced arthritis (CIA), and are currently in clinical trials for treatment of multiple sclerosis (MS). To expand the utility of these rationally-designed biologics and explore their mechanism(s) of activity in vivo, we have engineered RTL constructs bearing cysteine-tethered antigenic peptides and demonstrate that the appropriate cysteine-tethered RTLs effectively treat EAE. The data presented here suggests that the mechanism by which antigen-specific tolerance induction by RTLs bearing cysteine-tethered antigenic peptides in vivo involves delivery of RTL/antigen to endosomal compartments for processing and re-presentation by full-length MHC class II, with RTLs bearing cysteine-tethered antigenic peptides requiring gamma-interferon-inducible lysosomal thiol-reductase (GILT) for therapeutic activity.
EAE; GILT mice; RTL550-CYS-Mog; MHC Class II
Antigen presenting cell-associated four-domain MHC class-II molecules play a central role in activating autoreactive CD4+ T-cells involved in Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and Type 1 Diabetes (T1D). In contrast, two-domain MHC-II structures with the same covalently-attached self peptide (Recombinant T-cell receptor Ligands=RTLs) can regulate pathogenic CD4+ T-cells and reverse clinical signs of experimental autoimmune diseases. RTL1000, comprised of the β1α1 domains of HLA-DR2 linked to the encephalitogenic human MOG-35-55 peptide, was recently shown to be safe and well-tolerated in a Phase I clinical trial in MS. To evaluate the opposing biological effects of four- vs. two-domain class-II structures, we screened phage Fab antibodies (Abs) for neutralizing activity of RTL1000. . Five different TCR-like Abs were identified that could distinguish between the two- vs. four-domain MHC peptide complexes, while the cognate TCR was unable to make such a distinction. Moreover, Fab detection of native two-domain HLA-DR structures in human plasma implies that there are naturally-occurring regulatory MHC-peptide complexes. These results demonstrate for the first time distinct conformational determinants characteristic of activating vs. tolerogenic MHC-peptide complexes involved in human autoimmunity.
Autoimmunity; Recombinant Antibodies; Immune tolerance; MHC class II
Background. Recombinant T-cell receptor ligand 1000 (RTL1000) is a single-chain protein construct containing the outer two domains of HLA-DR2 linked to myelin-oligodendrocyte-glycoprotein- (MOG-) 35–55 peptide. Analogues of RTL1000 induce T-cell tolerance, reverse clinical and histological disease, and promote repair in experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) in DR2 transgenic, C57BL/6, and SJL/J mice. Objective. Determining the maximum tolerated dose, safety, and tolerability of RTL1000 in multiple sclerosis (MS) subjects. Methods. This was a multicenter, Phase I dose-escalation study in HLA-DR2+ MS subjects. Consecutive cohorts received RTL1000 doses of 2, 6, 20, 60, 200, and 100 mg, respectively. Subjects within each cohort randomly received a single intravenous infusion of RTL1000 or placebo at a 4 : 2 ratio. Safety monitoring included clinical, laboratory, and brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) evaluations. Results. Thirty-four subjects completed the protocol. All subjects tolerated the 2–60 mg doses of RTL1000. Doses ≥100 mg caused hypotension and diarrhea in 3 of 4 subjects, leading to discontinuation of further enrollment. Conclusions. The maximum tolerated dose of RTL1000 in MS subjects is 60 mg, comparable to effective RTL doses in EAE. RTL1000 is a novel approach for MS treatment that may induce immunoregulation without immunosuppression and promote neural repair.
A human Recombinant T-cell receptor Ligand (RTL1000) consisting of DR2 α1 and β1 domains linked covalently to MOG-35-55 peptide can reverse clinical and histological signs of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), and was evaluated for safety in a Phase 1 randomized, placebo-controlled, escalating dose study in 34 subjects with multiple sclerosis (MS). RTL1000 was safe and well tolerated at a dose of ≤60mg that is well within the effective dose range for EAE and did not cause worsening of MS disease at doses ≤200mg. RTL1000 represents a novel approach for the treatment of MS that promises potent immunoregulation and CNS repair without global immunosuppression.
Experimental Autoimmune Encephalomyelitis (EAE); Multiple Sclerosis (MS); Recombinant T cell receptor Ligand (RTL); neuroprotection; clinical trial
Recombinant T cell ligands (RTLs) ameliorate experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) in antigen specific manner. We evaluated effects of RTL401 (I-As α1β1 + PLP-139-151) on splenocytes from mice with EAE to study RTL- T cell-tolerance-inducing mechanisms. RTLs bound to B, macrophages and DCs, through RTL-MHC-α1β1 moiety. RTL binding reduced CD11b expression on splenic macrophages/DC, and RTL401-conditioned macrophages/DC, not B cells, inhibited T cell activation. Reduced ability of RTL- incubated splenocytes to transfer EAE was likely mediated through macrophages/DC, since B cells were unnecessary for RTL treatment of EAE. These results demonstrate novel pathway of T cell regulation by RTL bound APCs.
EAE; RTLs; tolerance; APCs
Recombinant T cell receptor ligands (RTLs) that target encephalitogenic T-cells can reverse clinical and histological signs of EAE, and are currently in clinical trials for treatment of multiple sclerosis. To evaluate possible regulatory mechanisms, we tested effects of RTL therapy on expression of pathogenic and effector T-cell maturation markers, CD226, T-bet and CD44, by CD4+ Th1 cells early after treatment of MOG-35-55 peptide-induced EAE in C57BL/6 mice. We showed that 1–5 daily injections of RTL551 (two-domain I-Ab covalently linked to MOG-35-55 peptide), but not the control RTL550 (“empty” two-domain I-Ab without a bound peptide) or Vehicle, reduced clinical signs of EAE, prevented trafficking of cells outside the spleen, significantly reduced the frequency of CD226 and T-bet expressing CD4+ T-cells in blood and inhibited expansion of CD44 expressing CD4+ T-cells in blood and spleen. Concomitantly, RTL551 selectively reduced CNS inflammatory lesions, absolute numbers of CNS infiltrating T-bet expressing CD4+ T-cells and IL-17 and IFN-γ secretion by CNS derived MOG-35-55 reactive cells cultured ex vivo. These novel results demonstrate that a major effect of RTL therapy is to attenuate Th1 specific changes in CD4+ T-cells during EAE and prevent expansion of effector T-cells that mediate clinical signs and CNS inflammation in EAE.
Increasing evidence suggests that in addition to T cell dependent effector mechanisms, autoantibodies are also involved in the pathogenesis of MS, including demyelinating antibodies specific for myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein (MOG). Our previous studies have demonstrated that recombinant T cell receptor ligands (RTLs) are very effective for treating T cell mediated experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE). In order to expand the scope of RTL therapy in MS patients, it was of interest to study RTL treatment of EAE involving a demyelinating antibody component. Therefore, we evaluated the therapeutic effects of RTL551, specific for T cells reactive to mouse (m)MOG-35-55 peptide, on EAE induced with recombinant human (rh)MOG in C57BL/6 mice. We report that RTL551 therapy can reverse disease progression and reduce demyelination and axonal damage induced by rhMOG without suppressing the anti-MOG antibody response. This result suggests that T cell mediated inflammation and associated blood-brain barrier dysfunction are the central contributors to EAE pathogenesis, and that successful regulation of these key players restricts potential damage by demyelinating antibodies. The results of our study lend support for the use of RTL therapy for treatment of MS subjects whose disease includes inflammatory T cells as well as those with an additional antibody component.
EAE; MS; recombinant human MOG; CNS damage
Chronic autoimmune uveitis is a major cause of vision loss from intraocular inflammation in humans. In this study we report that a recombinant TCR ligand (RTL220) composed of the α1 and β1 domains of MHC class II molecules linked to the uveitogenic interphotoreceptor retinoid-binding protein (IRBP) 1177–1191 peptide is effective in the suppression of acute and recurrent experimental autoimmune uveitis (EAU). Material and Methods: EAU was induced with IRBP1177–1191 peptide or by adoptive transfer of specific T cells in Lewis rats. The rats received 5 doses of RTL220 subcutaneously every other day starting at the onset of clinic signs of EAU.
The administration of RTL220 resulted in a delayed onset and a significant amelioration of the disease severity at clinical levels and showed protection of the retina from inflammatory damage at histological levels. In treatment of recurrent EAU, RTL220 administrated at the first or second onset of clinical disease significantly inhibited EAU, modulated immune responses and provided protection from relapses of uveitis. The systemic and local proinflammatory cytokines were significantly reduced, including IL-17. There was local and systemic increase in IL-10 and reduction in the expression of the proinflammatory chemokines CCL2, CCL3 and CCL5.
Our studies demonstrate a successful treatment of acute and recurrent EAU with RTL220, which effectively suppressed the recurrence of inflammation and reversed clinical and histological EAU by altering cytokine and chemokine expression. These findings strongly support a possible clinical application of this novel class of peptide/MHC class II drugs for patients with autoimmune uveitis.
Experimental autoimmune uveitis, rat; RTL, treatment; Cytokine; Chemokine
Recombinant T cell receptor ligands (RTLs) are bio-engineered molecules that may serve as novel therapeutic agents for the treatment of neuroinflammatory conditions such as multiple sclerosis (MS). RTLs contain membrane distal α1 plus β1 domains of class II major histocompatibility complex linked covalently to specific peptides that can be used to regulate T cell responses and inhibit experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE). The mechanisms by which RTLs impede local recruitment and retention of inflammatory cells in the CNS, however, are not completely understood.
We have recently shown that RTLs bind strongly to B cells, macrophages, and dendritic cells, but not to T cells, in an antigenic-independent manner, raising the question whether peripheral blood cells express a distinct RTL-receptor. Our study was designed to characterize the molecular mechanisms by which RTLs bind human blood platelets, and the ability of RTL to modulate platelet function.
Our data demonstrate that human blood platelets support binding of RTL. Immobilized RTL initiated platelet intracellular calcium mobilization and lamellipodia formation through a pathway dependent upon Src and PI3 kinases signaling. The presence of RTL in solution reduced platelet aggregation by collagen, while treatment of whole blood with RTL prolonged occlusive thrombus formation on collagen.
Platelets, well-known regulators of hemostasis and thrombosis, have been implicated in playing a major role in inflammation and immunity. This study provides the first evidence that blood platelets express a functional RTL-receptor with a putative role in modulating pathways of neuroinflammation.
Background and Purpose
Experimental stroke induces a biphasic effect on the immune response that involves early activation of peripheral leukocytes followed by severe immunodepression and atrophy of spleen and thymus. In tandem, the developing infarct is exacerbated by influx of numerous inflammatory cell types, including T and B lymphocytes. These features of stroke prompted our use of Recombinant T Cell Receptor Ligands (RTL), partial MHC class II molecules covalently bound to myelin peptides. We tested the hypothesis that RTL would improve ischemic outcome in brain without exacerbating defects in peripheral immune system function.
Four daily doses of RTL were administered subcutaneously to C57BL/6 mice after middle cerebral artery occlusion (MCAO), and lesion size and cellular composition were assessed in brain, and cell numbers were assessed in spleen and thymus.
Treatment with RTL551 (I-Ab molecule linked to MOG-35−55 peptide) reduced cortical and total stroke lesion size by ∼50%, inhibited the accumulation of inflammatory cells, particularly macrophages/activated microglial cells and dendritic cells, and mitigated splenic atrophy. Treatment with RTL1000 (HLA-DR2 moiety linked to human MOG-35−55 peptide) similarly reduced the stroke lesion size in HLA-DR2 transgenic mice. In contrast, control RTL with a non-neuroantigen peptide or a mismatched MHC class II moiety had no effect on stroke lesion size.
These data are the first to demonstrate successful treatment of experimental stroke using a neuroantigen specific immunomodulatory agent administered after ischemia, suggesting therapeutic potential in human stroke.
Stroke; autoreactive T cells; recombinant TCR ligands; immunotherapy
Recombinant T-cell receptor ligands (RTLs) can reverse clinical and histological signs of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) in an antigen-specific manner, and are currently in clinical trials for treatment of subjects with multiple sclerosis (MS). Antigen specificity of RTL raises the question as to whether this treatment would be successful in MS patients where target antigens are unknown. Using spinal cord homogenate or combinations of two different peptides to induce disease,we found that treatment with single RTL could reverse EAE as long as targeted T-cells were present. Therapy with three different RTLs each caused a significant reduction in IL-17 and increases in IL-10 and IL-13 in peptide-activated splenocytes, reduced proliferation of both cognate and bystander specificities of lymph node cells, and reduced inflammatory lesions and secreted IL-17 and IL-2 from peptide-activated spinal cord cells. These results show that treatment with single RTLs can induce a cytokine switch in cognate T-cells that inhibits both the target and bystander T-cells, providing new evidence for the potential applicability of RTL therapy in MS.
Recombinant TCR ligands (RTL) represent the minimal interactive surface with antigen-specific T cell receptors. These novel constructs fold similarly to native four-domain MHC/peptide complexes but deliver suboptimal and qualitatively different signals that cause a “cytokine switch” to anti-inflammatory factors in targeted encephalitogenic T cells. RTL treatment can reverse clinical and histological signs of EAE and most dramatically can promote myelin and axonal recovery in the CNS of mice with chronic disease. These properties of RTL suggest that this novel antigen-specific approach may hold unusual promise as a therapy for multiple sclerosis.
RTL; EAE; MS; neuroprotection; immunomodulation
Inflammation results in CNS damage in multiple sclerosis (MS) and experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), an animal model of MS. It is uncertain how much repair of injured myelin and axons can occur following highly selective anti-inflammatory therapy in EAE and MS. In this study, SJL/J mice with established EAE were treated successfully with an antigen-specific recombinant T cell receptor ligand (RTL), RTL401, a mouse I-As/PLP-139–151 construct, after the peak of EAE. To define the mechanisms by which late application of RTL401 inhibits EAE, we evaluated mice at different time points to assess the levels of neuroinflammation and myelin and axon damage in their spinal cords. Our results showed that RTL401 administered after the peak of acute EAE induced a marked reduction in inflammation in the CNS, associated with a significant reduction of demyelination, axonal loss and ongoing damage. Electron microscopy showed that RTL-treated mice had reduced pathology compared with mice treated with vehicle and mice at the peak of disease, as demonstrated by a decrease in continued degeneration, increase in remyelinating axons and the presence of an increased number of small, presumably regenerative axonal sprouts. These findings indicate that RTL therapy targeting encephalitogenic T cells may promote CNS neuro-regenerative processes.
axonal loss; demyelination; multiple sclerosis; T lymphocytes