Methods: A unique structural domain (UNE-C1) was identified as a novel TLR2/6 in the catalytic region of human cysteinyl-tRNA synthetase 1 (CARS1) using comprehensive approaches, including RNA sequencing, the human embryonic kidney (HEK)-TLR Blue system, pull-down, and ELISA. The potency of its immunoadjuvant properties was analyzed by assessing antigen-specific antibody and CTL responses. In addition, the efficacy of tumor growth inhibition and the presence of the tumor-infiltrating leukocytes were evaluated using E.G7-OVA and TC-1 mouse models. The combined effect of UNE-C1 with an immune checkpoint inhibitor, anti-CTLA-4 antibody, was also evaluated in vivo. The safety of UNE-C1 immunization was determined by monitoring splenomegaly and cytokine production in the blood.
Results: Here, we report that CARS1 can be secreted from cancer cells to activate immune responses via specific interactions with TLR2/6 of APCs. A unique domain (UNE-C1) inserted into the catalytic region of CARS1 was determined to activate dendritic cells, leading to the stimulation of robust humoral and cellular immune responses in vivo. UNE-C1 also showed synergistic efficacy with cancer antigens and checkpoint inhibitors against different cancer models in vivo. Further, the safety assessment of UNE-C1 showed lower systemic cytokine levels than other known TLR agonists.
Conclusions: We identified the endogenous TLR2/6 activating domain from human cysteinyl-tRNA synthetase CARS1. This novel TLR2/6 ligand showed potent immune-stimulating activity with little toxicity. Thus, the UNE-C1 domain can be developed as an effective immunoadjuvant with checkpoint inhibitors or cancer antigens to boost antitumor immunity.
Keywords: adjuvants, immunological; immunology; oncology; vaccination.
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