Regulatory T cells engineered with TCR signaling–responsive IL-2 nanogels suppress alloimmunity in sites of antigen encounter Academic Article uri icon


  • Adoptive cell transfer of ex vivo expanded regulatory T cells (Tregs) has shown immense potential in animal models of auto- and alloimmunity. However, the effective translation of such Treg therapies to the clinic has been slow. Because Treg homeostasis is known to require continuous T cell receptor (TCR) ligation and exogenous interleukin-2 (IL-2), some investigators have explored the use of low-dose IL-2 injections to increase endogenous Treg responses. Systemic IL-2 immunotherapy, however, can also lead to the activation of cytotoxic T lymphocytes and natural killer cells, causing adverse therapeutic outcomes. Here, we describe a drug delivery platform, which can be engineered to autostimulate Tregs with IL-2 in response to TCR-dependent activation, and thus activate these cells in sites of antigen encounter. To this end, protein nanogels (NGs) were synthesized with cleavable bis(N-hydroxysuccinimide) cross-linkers and IL-2/Fc fusion (IL-2) proteins to form particles that release IL-2 under reducing conditions, as found at the surface of T cells receiving stimulation through the TCR. Tregs surface-conjugated with IL-2 NGs were found to have preferential, allograft-protective effects relative to unmodified Tregs or Tregs stimulated with systemic IL-2. We demonstrate that murine and human NG-modified Tregs carrying an IL-2 cargo perform better than conventional Tregs in suppressing alloimmunity in murine and humanized mouse allotransplantation models. In all, the technology presented in this study has the potential to improve Treg transfer therapy by enabling the regulated spatiotemporal provision of IL-2 to antigen-primed Tregs.

altmetric score

  • 14.8

author list (cited authors)

  • Eskandari, S. K., Sulkaj, I., Melo, M. B., Li, N. a., Allos, H., Alhaddad, J. B., ... Azzi, J. R.

citation count

  • 0

publication date

  • November 2020