Potent Activation of Human T Cells by mRNA Encoding Constitutively Active CD40

Noam Levin, Hadas Weinstein-Marom, Aviad Pato, Orit Itzhaki, Michal J. Besser, Galit Eisenberg, Tamar Peretz, Michal Lotem, Gideon Gross*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


New strategies for augmenting the actual performance of therapeutic T cells in vivo are needed for improving clinical outcome of adoptive cell therapy. Cumulative findings suggest that CD40 plays an intrinsic role in T cell costimulation. Recently, we demonstrated the ability of truncated, auto-oligomerizing CD40 derivatives to induce strong activation of APCs in a ligandindependent manner. We reasoned that constitutively active CD40 (caCD40) can similarly exert enhancing effects on human antitumor T cells. To test this assumption, we transfected human T cells with in vitro-transcribed caCD40 mRNA. In polyclonal T cells, caCD40 triggered IFN-g secretion and upregulated CD25 and 4-1BB. In antimelanoma tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs), caCD40 induced massive production of IFN-γ, exerting a pronounced synergistic effect when coexpressed with constitutively active TLR4 devoid of its extracellular ligand binding. In unselected "young" TILs, caCD40 reproducibly increased surface expression of CD25, OX40, 4-1BB, CD127, and CD28. Three days post-mRNA electroporation of CD8 TILs, caCD40 elevated IFN-g and TNF-a production and cytolytic activity in the presence of autologous but not HLA-I-mismatched melanoma. Enhanced killing of autologous melanoma by young TILs was observed 4 d posttransfection. These findings suggest that caCD40 can function as a potent T cell adjuvant and provide essential guidelines for similar manipulation of other key members of the TNFR family. The Journal of Immunology, 2018, 201: 2959-2968.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2959-2968
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number10
StatePublished - 15 Nov 2018


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