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Cellular Oncology
Volume 32, Issue 1-2, Pages 43-56

Promiscuous Behavior of HPV16E6 Specific T Cell Receptor Beta Chains Hampers Functional Expression in TCR Transgenic T Cells, Which Can Be Restored in Part by Genetic Modification

Kirsten B. J. Scholten,1 Janneke J. Ruizendaal,1 Marcus Graf,2 Thomas Schoedl,2 Duco Kramer,1 Chris J. L. M. Meijer,1 Stephen Man,3 and Erik Hooijberg1

1Department of Pathology, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
2GeneArt GmbH, Regensburg, Germany
3Department of Medical Biochemistry and Immunology, Cardiff University, Cardiff, United Kingdom

Copyright © 2010 Hindawi Publishing Corporation and the authors. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Background: T cell receptor gene transfer is a promising strategy to treat patients suffering from HPV induced malignancies. Therefore we isolated the TCRαβ open reading frames of an HPV16E6 specific CTL clone and generated TCR transgenic T cells. In general low level expression of the transgenic TCR in recipient human T cells is observed as well as the formation of mixed TCRs dimers. Here we addressed both issues employing three different expression platforms.

Methods: We isolated the HVP16E6 specific TCRα and TCRβ open reading frames and retrovirally transduced human T cells with either wild-type (wt), or codon-modified (cm) chains to achieve enhanced TCR expression levels, or used codon-modification in combination with cysteinization (cmCys) of TCRs to facilitate preferential pairing of the introduced TCRα and TCRβ chains.

Results: Careful analysis of recipient T cells carrying the HPV16E6 TCRβ and endogenous TCR chains revealed the transgenic TCRβ chain to behave very promiscuously. Further analysis showed that the percentage of tetramer positive T cells in codon-modified/cysteinized TCR transgenic T cells was four-fold higher compared to wild-type and two-fold higher compared to codon-modification only. Functional activity, as determined by IFN-γ production, was high in cmCysTCR transgenic T cells, where it was low in cm and wt TCR transgenic T cells. Recognition of endogenously processed HPV16E6 antigen by cmCysTCR transgenic T cells was confirmed in a cytotoxicity assay.

Conclusions: Promiscuous behavior of the HPV16E6 specific TCRβ chain can in part be forced back into specific action in TCR transgenic T cells by codon modification in combination with the inclusion of an extra cysteine in the TCR chains.