Rapid and efficient generation of antigen-specific isogenic T cells from cryopreserved blood samples

A L Eerkens, A Vledder, N van Rooij, F Foijer, H W Nijman, M de Bruyn*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats/CRISPR-associated protein 9 (CRISPR/Cas9)-mediated gene editing has been leveraged for the modification of human and mouse T cells. However, limited experience is available on the application of CRISPR/Cas9 electroporation in cryopreserved T cells collected during clinical trials. To address this, we aimed to optimize a CRISPR/Cas9-mediated gene editing protocol compatible with peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) samples routinely produced during clinical trials. PBMCs from healthy donors were used to generate knockout T-cell models for interferon-gamma, Cbl proto-oncogene B (CBLB), Fas cell surface death receptor (Fas) and T-cell receptor (TCR alpha beta) genes. The effect of CRISPR/Cas9-mediated gene editing on T cells was evaluated using apoptosis assays, cytokine bead arrays and ex vivo and in vitro stimulation assays. Our results demonstrate that CRISPR/Cas9-mediated gene editing of ex vivo T cells is efficient and does not overtly affect T-cell viability. Cytokine release and T-cell proliferation were not affected in gene-edited T cells. Interestingly, memory T cells were more susceptible to CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing than naive T cells. Ex vivo and in vitro stimulation with antigens resulted in equivalent antigen-specific T-cell responses in gene-edited and untouched control cells, making CRISPR/Cas9-mediated gene editing compatible with clinical antigen-specific T-cell activation and expansion assays. Here, we report an optimized protocol for rapid, viable and highly efficient genetic modification in ex vivo human antigen-specific T cells, for subsequent functional evaluation and/or expansion. Our platform extends CRISPR/Cas9-mediated gene editing for use in gold-standard clinically used immune-monitoring pipelines and serves as a starting point for development of analogous approaches, such as those including transcriptional activators and/or epigenetic modifiers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)285–295
Number of pages11
JournalImmunology and Cell Biology
Early online date21-Mar-2022
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Antigen-specific immune responses
  • clinical trials
  • Cas9
  • gene editing
  • immune monitoring
  • knockout
  • proliferation
  • T cells
  • viability

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