Publication date: Aug 01, 2020
With an infection rate of 60-90%, the human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) is very common among adults but normally causes no symptoms. When T cell-mediated immunity is compromised, HCMV reactivation can lead to increased morbidity and mortality. HCMV antigens are processed and presented as peptides on the cell surface via HLA I complexes to the T cell receptor (TCR) of T cells. The generation of antibodies against HCMV peptides presented on HLA complexes (TCR-like antibodies) has been described, but is without therapeutic applications to date due to the polygenic and polymorphic nature of HLA genes. We set out to obtain antibodies specific for HLA/HCMV-peptides, covering the majority of HLA alleles present in European populations. Using phage display technology, we selected 10 Fabs, able to bind to HCMV-peptides presented in the 6 different HLA class I alleles A*0101, A*0201, A*2402, B*0702, B*0801 and B*3501. We demonstrate specific binding of all selected Fabs to HLA-typed lymphoblastoid cell lines (EBV-transformed B cells) and lymphocytes loaded with HCMV-peptides. After infection with HCMV, 4/10 tetramerized Fabs restricted to the alleles HLA-A*0101, HLA-A*0201 and HLA-B*0702 showed binding to infected primary fibroblasts. When linked to the pseudomonas exotoxin A, these Fab antibodies induce highly specific cytotoxicity in HLA matched cell lines loaded with HCMV peptides. TCR-like antibody repertoires therefore represent a promising new treatment modality for viral infections and may also have applications in the treatment of cancers.