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Rewiring T-cell responses to soluble factors with chimeric antigen receptors.


Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-expressing T cells targeting surface-bound tumor antigens have yielded promising clinical outcomes, with two CD19 CAR-T cell therapies recently receiving FDA approval for the treatment of B-cell malignancies. The adoption of CARs for the recognition of soluble ligands, a distinct class of biomarkers in physiology and disease, could considerably broaden the utility of CARs in disease treatment. In this study, we demonstrate that CAR-T cells can be engineered to respond robustly to diverse soluble ligands, including the CD19 ectodomain, GFP variants, and transforming growth factor beta (TGF-β). We additionally show that CAR signaling in response to soluble ligands relies on ligand-mediated CAR dimerization and that CAR responsiveness to soluble ligands can be fine-tuned by adjusting the mechanical coupling between the CAR's ligand-binding and signaling domains. Our results support a role for mechanotransduction in CAR signaling and demonstrate an approach for systematically engineering immune-cell responses to soluble, extracellular ligands.

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