Investigation of antigen-specific T-cell receptor clusters in human cancers

Hongyi Zhang, Longchao Liu, Jian Zhang, Jiahui Chen, Jianfeng Ye, Sachet Shukla, Jian Qiao, Xiaowei Zhan, Hao Chen, Catherine J. Wu, Yang Xin Fu, Bo Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

Purpose: Cancer antigen-specific T cells are key components in antitumor immune response, yet their identification in the tumor microenvironment remains challenging, as most cancer antigens are unknown. Recent advance in immunology suggests that similar T-cell receptor (TCR) sequences can be clustered to infer shared antigen specificity. This study aims to identify antigen-specific TCRs from the tumor genomics sequencing data. Experimental Design: We used the TRUST (Tcr Repertoire Utilities for Solid Tissue) algorithm to assemble the TCR hypervariable CDR3 regions from 9,700 bulk tumor RNA-sequencing (RNA-seq) samples, and developed a computational method, iSMART, to group similar TCRs into antigen-specific clusters. Integrative analysis on the TCR clusters with multi-omics datasets was performed to profile cancer-associated T cells and to uncover novel cancer antigens. Results: Clustered TCRs are associated with signatures of T-cell activation after antigen encounter. We further elucidated the phenotypes of clustered T cells using single-cell RNA-seq data, which revealed a novel subset of tissue-resident memory T-cell population with elevated metabolic status. An exciting application of the TCR clusters is to identify novel cancer antigens, exemplified by our identification of a candidate cancer/testis gene, HSFX1, through integrated analysis of HLA alleles and genomics data. The target was further validated using vaccination of humanized HLA-A*02:01 mice and ELISpot assay. Finally, we showed that clustered tumor-infiltrating TCRs can differentiate patients with early-stage cancer from healthy donors, using blood TCR repertoire sequencing data, suggesting potential applications in noninvasive cancer detection. Conclusions: Our analysis on the antigen-specific TCR clusters provides a unique resource for alternative antigen discovery and biomarker identification for cancer immunotherapies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1359-1371
Number of pages13
JournalClinical Cancer Research
Volume26
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 15 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research

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