You are here

Alternative splicing of its 5' UTR limits CD20 mRNA translation and enables resistance to CD20-directed immunotherapies

Ang Z, Paruzzo L, Hayer KE, Schmidt C, Torres-Diz M, Xu F, Zankharia U, Zhang Y, Soldan SS, Zheng S, Falkenstein CD, Loftus JP, Yang SY, Asnani M, King Sainos P, Pillai V, Chong ER, Li M, Tasian SK, Barash Y, Lieberman PM, Ruella M, Schuster SJ, Thomas-Tikhonenko A
Blood. 2023 Sep 8:blood.2023020400. doi: 10.1182/blood.2023020400. Online ahead of print
Aberrant skipping of coding exons in CD19 and CD22 compromises responses to immunotherapy for B-cell malignancies. Here, we show that the MS4A1 gene encoding human CD20 also produces several mRNA isoforms with distinct 5' untranslated regions (5'-UTR). Four variants (V1-4) were detectable by RNA-seq in distinct stages of normal B-cell differentiation and B-lymphoid malignancies, with V1 and V3 being the most abundant by far. During B-cell activation and Epstein-Barr virus infection, redirection of splicing from V1 to V3 coincided with increased CD20 positivity. Similarly, in diffuse large B-cell lymphoma only V3, but not V1, correlated with CD20 protein levels, suggesting that V1 might be translation-deficient. Indeed, the longer V1 isoform was found to contain upstream open reading frames (uORFs) and a stem-loop structure, which cooperatively inhibited polysome recruitment. By modulating CD20 isoforms with splice-switching Morpholino oligomers, we enhanced CD20 expression and anti-CD20 antibody rituximab-mediated cytotoxicity in a panel of B-cell lines. Furthermore, reconstitution of CD20-knockout cells with V3 mRNA led to the recovery of CD20 positivity, while V1-reconstituted cells had undetectable levels of CD20 protein. Surprisingly, in vitro CD20-directed CAR T cells were able to kill both V3- and V1-expressing cells, but the bispecific T cell engager mosunetuzumab was only effective against V3-expressing cells. To determine whether CD20 splicing is involved in immunotherapy resistance, we performed RNA-seq on four post-mosunetuzumab follicular lymphoma relapses and discovered that in two of them downregulation of CD20 was accompanied by the V3-to-V1 shift. Thus, splicing-mediated mechanisms of epitope loss extend to CD20-directed immunotherapies.
Organism or Cell Type: 
cell culture: OCI-Ly8, Raji, and MEC-1
Delivery Method: