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Direct loading of CTL epitopes onto MHC class I complexes on dendritic cell surface in vivo

Wang, Peng, Dong, Shuyun, Zhao, Peng, He, Xiao, Chen, Mingnan
Biomaterials 2018 v.182 pp. 92-103
culture media, dendritic cells, epitopes, hydrophilicity, immune response, lymph nodes, major histocompatibility complex, polypeptides, vaccines
Dendritic cell (DC)-based cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) epitope vaccines are effective to induce CTL responses but require complex ex vivo DC preparation and epitope-loading. To take advantage of DC-based epitope vaccines without involving the ex vivo procedures, we aimed to develop carriers to directly load CTL epitopes onto DCs in vivo. Here, we first engineered a carrier consisting of a hydrophilic polypeptide, immune-tolerant elastin-like polypeptide (iTEP) and a substrate peptide of matrix metalloproteinases-9 (sMMP). The iTEP was able to solubilize CTL epitopes. CTL epitopes were connected to the carrier, iTEP-sMMP, through sMMP so that the epitopes can be cleaved from the carrier by MMP-9. iTEP-sMMP was found to release its epitope payloads in the DC culture media, which contained MMP-9 released from DCs. iTEP-sMMP allowed for the direct loading of CTL epitopes onto the surface MHC class I complexes of DCs. Importantly, iTEP-sMMP resulted in greater epitope presentation by DCs both in vitro and in vivo than a control carrier that cannot directly load epitopes. iTEP-sMMP also induced 2-fold stronger immune responses than the control carrier. To further enhance the direct epitope-loading strategy, we furnished iTEP-sMMP with an albumin-binding domain (ABD) and found the new carrier, ABD-iTEP-sMMP, had greater lymph node (LN) accumulation than iTEP-sMMP. ABD-iTEP-sMMP also resulted in greater immune responses than iTEP-sMMP by 1.5-fold. Importantly, ABD-iTEP-sMMP-delivered CTL epitope vaccine induced stronger immune responses than free CTL epitope vaccine. Taken together, these carriers utilized two physiological features of DCs to realize direct epitope-loading in vivo: the accumulation of DCs in LNs and MMP-9 released from DCs. These carriers are a potential substitute for DC-based CTL epitope vaccines.