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Recently, immunotherapeutic modalities with engineered cells and monoclonal antibodies have been effective in treating several malignancies. Nucleic acid aptamers can serve as alternative molecules to design immunotherapeutic agents with high functional diversity. Here we report a synthetic prototype consisting of DNA aptamers that can activate the T cell receptor cluster of differentiation 3 (TCR-CD3) complex in cultured T cells. We show that the activation potential is similar to that of a monoclonal antibody (mAb) against TCR-CD3, suggesting potential for aptamers in developing efficacious synthetic immunomodulators. The synthetic prototype of anti-TCR-CD3ε, as described here, was designed using aptamer ZUCH-1 against TCR-CD3ε, generated by ligand-guided selection (LIGS). Aptamer ZUCH-1 was truncated and modified with nuclease-resistant RNA analogs to enhance stability. Several dimeric analogs with truncated and modified variants were designed with variable linker lengths to investigate the activation potential of each construct. Among them, a dimeric aptamer with dimensions approximately similar to those of an antibody showed the highest T cell activation, suggesting the importance of optimizing linker lengths in engineering functional aptamers. The observed activation potential of dimeric aptamers shows the vast potential of aptamers in designing synthetically versatile immunomodulators with tunable pharmacokinetic properties, expanding immunotherapeutic designs by using nucleic acid-based ligands such as aptamers. Copyright © 2020 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Lina Freage, Deana Jamal, Nicole B Williams, Prabodhika R Mallikaratchy. A Homodimeric Aptamer Variant Generated from Ligand-Guided Selection Activates the T Cell Receptor Cluster of Differentiation 3 Complex. Molecular therapy. Nucleic acids. 2020 Aug 19;22:167-178

PMID: 32920262

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