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Blood Adv. 2018 Feb 27;2(4):309-322. doi: 10.1182/bloodadvances.2017013482.

FVIII proteins with a modified immunodominant T-cell epitope exhibit reduced immunogenicity and normal FVIII activity.

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Bloodworks Northwest Research Institute, Seattle, WA.
Benaroya Research Institute, Seattle, WA.
Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, MD; and.
Division of Hematology, Department Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA.


Factor VIII (FVIII)-neutralizing antibodies (inhibitors) are a serious complication in hemophilia A (HA). The peptide FVIII2194-2213 contains an immunodominant HLA-DRA*01-DRB1*01:01 (DRB1*01:01)-restricted epitope recognized by CD4+ T-effector cells from HA subjects. The aim of this study was to identify amino acid substitutions to deimmunize this epitope while retaining procoagulant function and expression levels comparable to those of wild-type (WT) FVIII proteins. The shortest DRB1*01:01-binding peptide was FVIII2194-2205, and residues important for affinity were identified as F2196, M2199, A2201, and S2204. T-cell proliferation experiments with Ala-substituted FVIII2194-2205 peptides identified F2196A as a substitution that abrogated proliferation of clones specific for the WT sequence. T-cell clones that were stimulated by recombinant WT-FVIII-C2 (rWT-FVIII-C2) protein did not proliferate when cultured with rFVIII-C2-F2196A, indicating the immunogenic peptide includes a naturally processed T-cell epitope. Additional amino acid substitutions at F2196 and M2199 were evaluated by peptide-MHC class II (MHCII)-binding assays, T-cell proliferation assays, epitope prediction algorithms, and sequence homologies. Six B-domain-deleted (BDD)-FVIII proteins with substitutions F2196A, F2196L, F2196K, M2199A, M2199W, or M2199R were produced. Proliferation of T-cell clones and polyclonal lines in response to rBDD-FVIII-F2196K and rBDD-FVIII-M2199A was reduced compared with responses to WT-BDD-FVIII. The BDD-FVIII-F2196K sequence modification appears to be the most promising sequence variant tested here, due to its effectiveness at eliminating DRB1*01:01-restricted immunogenicity, low potential immunogenicity in the context of other MHCII alleles, expression level comparable to WT-BDD-FVIII, and retained procoagulant activity. These results provide proof of principle for the design of less immunogenic FVIII proteins targeted to specific subsets of HA patients.

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