Engineering of CD34+ progenitor-derived natural killer cells with higher-affinity CD16a for enhanced antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity

Paulien M.M. van Hauten, Laura Hooijmaijers, Marcos Vidal-Manrique, Anniek B. van der Waart, Willemijn Hobo, Jianming Wu, Nicole M.A. Blijlevens, Joop H. Jansen, Bruce Walcheck, Nicolaas P.M. Schaap, Paul K.J.D. de Jonge, Harry Dolstra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background aims: Natural killer (NK) cell transfer is a promising cellular immunotherapy for cancer. Previously, we developed a robust method to generate large NK cell numbers from CD34+ hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells (HSPCs), which exhibit strong anti-tumor activity. However, since these cells express low levels of the Fc receptor CD16a in vitro, antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity (ADCC) by these cells is limited. To broaden clinical applicability of our HSPC-NK cells toward less NK-sensitive malignancies, we aimed to improve ADCC through CD16a transduction. Methods: Using wildtype and S197P mutant greater-affinity (both with V158) CD16a retroviral transgenes (i.e., a cleavable and noncleavable CD16a upon stimulation), we generated CD16a HSPC-transduced NK cells, with CD34+ cells isolated from umbilical cord blood (UCB) or peripheral blood after G-CSF stem cell mobilization (MPB). CD16a expressing NK cells were enriched using flow cytometry–based cell sorting. Subsequently, phenotypic analyses and functional assays were performed to investigate natural cytotoxicity and ADCC activity. Results: Mean transduction efficiency was 34% for UCB-derived HSPCs and 20% for MPB-derived HSPCs, which was enriched by flow cytometry-based cell sorting to >90% for both conditions. Expression of the transgene remained stable during the entire NK expansion cell generation process. Proliferation and differentiation of HSPCs were not hampered by the transduction process, resulting in effectively differentiated CD56+ NK cells after 5 weeks. Activation of the HSPC-derived NK cells resulted in significant shedding of wildtype CD16a transcribed from the endogenous gene, but not of the noncleavable mutant CD16a protein expressed from the transduced construct. The mean increase of CD107+IFNγ+ expressing NK cells after inducing ADCC was tenfold in enriched noncleavable CD16a HSPC-NK cells. Killing capacity of CD16a-transduced NK cells was significantly improved after addition of a tumor-targeting antibody in tumor cell lines and primary B-cell leukemia and lymphoma cells compared to unmodified HSPC-NK cells. Conclusions: Together, these data demonstrate that the applicability of adoptive NK cell immunotherapy may be broadened to less NK-sensitive malignancies by upregulation of CD16a expression in combination with the use of tumor-targeting monoclonal antibodies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)252-260
Number of pages9
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 International Society for Cell & Gene Therapy


  • antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity
  • cancer immunotherapy
  • gene therapy
  • natural killer cells

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't


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