The in vivo therapeutic efficacy of DC-based cancer vaccines is limited by suboptimal DC maturation protocols. Although delivery of TLR adjuvants systemically boosts DC-based cancer vaccine efficacy, it could also increase toxicity. Here, we have engineered a drug-inducible, composite activation receptor for DCs (referred to herein as DC-CAR) comprising the TLR adaptor MyD88, the CD40 cytoplasmic region, and 2 ligand-binding FKBP12 domains. Administration of a lipid-permeant dimerizing ligand (AP1903) induced oligomerization and activation of this fusion protein, which we termed iMyD88/CD40. AP1903 administration to vaccinated mice enabled prolonged and targeted activation of iMyD88/CD40-modified DCs. Compared with conventionally matured DCs, AP1903-activated iMyD88/CD40-DCs had increased activation of proinflammatory MAPKs. AP1903-activated iMyD88/CD40-transduced human or mouse DCs also produced higher levels of Th1 cytokines, showed improved migration in vivo, and enhanced both antigen-specific CD8+ T cell responses and innate NK cell responses. Furthermore, treatment with AP1903 in vaccinated mice led to robust antitumor immunity against preestablished E.G7-OVA lymphomas and aggressive B16.F10 tumors. Thus, the iMyD88/CD40 unified “switch” effectively and safely replaced exogenous adjuvant cocktails, allowing remote and sustained DC activation in vivo. DC “licensing” through iMyD88/CD40 may represent a mechanism by which to exploit the natural synergy between the TLR and CD40 signaling pathways in DCs using a single small molecule drug and could augment the efficacy of antitumor DC-based vaccines.
Priyadharshini Narayanan, Natalia Lapteva, Mamatha Seethammagari, Jonathan M. Levitt, Kevin M. Slawin, David M. Spencer