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Functional diversification and dynamics of CAR-T cells in patients with B-ALL

Cell reports Volume 42, Issue 10, 31 October 2023, 113263


Highlights

· Longitudinal scRNA-seq of CAR-T cells from patients with different responses

· Heterogeneities, dynamic features, and cellular evolution of CAR-T cells in vivo

· Uncovering transcriptional hallmarks and clinical relevance of CAR-T subtypes

· B-featured CAR-T subtypes suggest impaired cytotoxicity and predict relapse


Summary

Understanding of cellular evolution and molecular programs of chimeric antigen receptor-engineered (CAR)-T cells post-infusion is pivotal for developing better treatment strategies. Here, we construct a longitudinal high-precision single-cell transcriptomic landscape of 7,578 CAR-T cells from 26 patients with B cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (B-ALL) post-infusion. We molecularly identify eight CAR-T cell subtypes, including three cytotoxic subtypes with distinct kinetics and three dual-identity subtypes with non-T cell characteristics. Remarkably, long-term remission is coincident with the dominance of cytotoxic subtypes, while leukemia progression is correlated with the emergence of subtypes with B cell transcriptional profiles, which have dysfunctional features and might predict relapse. We further validate in vitro that the generation of B-featured CAR-T cells is induced by excessive tumor antigen stimulation or suppressed TCR signaling, while it is relieved by exogenous IL-12. Moreover, we define transcriptional hallmarks of CAR-T cell subtypes and reveal their molecular changes along computationally inferred cellular evolution in vivo. Collectively, these results decipher functional diversification and dynamics of peripheral CAR-T cells post-infusion.

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