Insertion of ASS or OTC enzymes enhances CAR-T cell proliferation and activity in the low arginine microenvironment.
Hematological and solid cancers catabolize the semiessential amino acid arginine to drive cell proliferation. However, the resulting low arginine microenvironment also impairs chimeric antigen receptor T cells (CAR-T) cell proliferation, limiting their efficacy in clinical trials against hematological and solid malignancies. T cells are susceptible to the low arginine microenvironment because of the low expression of the arginine resynthesis enzymes argininosuccinate synthase (ASS) and ornithine transcarbamylase (OTC). We demonstrate that T cells can be reengineered to express functional ASS or OTC enzymes, in concert with different chimeric antigen receptors. Enzyme modifications increase CAR-T cell proliferation, with no loss of CAR cytotoxicity or increased exhaustion. In vivo, enzyme-modified CAR-T cells lead to enhanced clearance of leukemia or solid tumor burden, providing the first metabolic modification to enhance CAR-T cell therapies.