Cancer Immunology, Immunotherapy

, Volume 67, Issue 10, pp 1621–1634 | Cite as

Increased antitumor activities of glypican-3-specific chimeric antigen receptor-modified T cells by coexpression of a soluble PD1–CH3 fusion protein

  • Zeyan Pan
  • Shengmeng Di
  • Bizhi Shi
  • Hua Jiang
  • Zhimin Shi
  • Ying Liu
  • Yi Wang
  • Hong Luo
  • Min Yu
  • Xiuqi Wu
  • Zonghai LiEmail author
Original Article


Our recent clinical study demonstrated that glypican-3 (GPC3)-specific chimeric antigen receptor-modified T (CAR-T) cells are a promising treatment for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). However, the interaction of programmed cell death 1 (PD-1) and PD-L1-mediated T-cell inhibition is involved in immune evasion in a wide range of solid tumors, including HCC. To overcome this problem, we introduced a fusion protein composed of a PD-1 extracellular domain and CH3 from IgG4 into GPC3-specific CAR-T cells (GPC3-28Z) to block the PD-1/PD-L1 pathway. GPC3-specific CAR-T cells carrying the PD-1–CH3 fusion protein (sPD1) specifically recognized and lysed GPC3-positive HCC cells. The proliferation capacity of GPC3-28Z-sPD1 T cells after weekly stimulation with target cells was much higher than that of control GPC3-28Z T cells. Additionally, the coexpression of sPD1 could protect CAR-T cells from exhaustion when incubated with target cells, as phosphorylated AKT and Bcl-xL expression levels were higher in GPC3-28Z-sPD1 T cells than in GPC3-28Z cells. Importantly, in two HCC tumor xenograft models, GPC3-28Z-sPD1 T cells displayed a significantly higher tumor suppression capacity than GPC3-28Z T cells. In addition, an increased number of CD3+ T cells in the circulation and tumors and increased granzyme B levels and decreased Ki67 expression levels in the tumors were observed in the mice treated with GPC3-28Z-sPD1 T cells. Together, these data indicated that GPC3-specific CAR-T cells carrying sPD1 show promise as a treatment for patients with HCC.


Chimeric antigen receptor PD-1/PD-L1 Hepatocellular carcinoma Glypican-3 sPD1 



B cell lymphoma-extra large


Chimeric antigen receptor


Carboxyfluorescein succinimidyl ester




Lymphocyte activation gene 3


Hepatocellular carcinoma


Multiplicity of infection


Peripheral blood mononuclear cells


Programmed cell death 1


Programmed cell death 1 ligand 1


Phosphorylated AKT


Soluble PD-1–CH3 fusion protein


Central memory T cell


Tumor microenvironment


T cell/transmembrane, immunoglobulin, and mucin-1



Linguistic revision was done by Nature Research Editing Service.

Author Contributions

ZL conceived the ideas, designed the research and revised the manuscript; ZP designed subsequent experiments; ZP and SD performed the experiments and wrote the manuscript; BS performed molecular cloning work; HJ helped to perform the in vitro and in vivo work; ZS analyzed the data; YL, YW, HL, MY and XW assisted with the in vitro work.


This work was supported by the Supporting Programs of Shanghai Science and Technology Innovation Action Plan (No. 16DZ1910700), the “13th Five-Year Plan” National Science and Technology Major Project of China (2017ZX10203206006), the Collaborative Innovation Center for Translational Medicine at Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine (TM201601), the Research Fund of the Shanghai Municipal Commission of Health and Family Planning (No. 20174Y0178), and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (81472569).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Dr. Zonghai Li has ownership interests regarding GPC3-specific CAR-T cells with sPD1 coexpression. The other authors declare no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval and ethical standards

The study was approved by the Shanghai Science and Technology Committee, approval number: SYXK (SH) 2017-0011. The protocols followed the appropriate guidelines and were approved by the Shanghai Medical Experimental Animal Care Commission.

Informed consent

The peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from healthy donors were obtained by the Shanghai Blood Center from staff members of the research laboratory who volunteered to donate blood. They consented to the use of this blood for research purposes.

Supplementary material

262_2018_2221_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (809 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 808 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Zeyan Pan
    • 1
  • Shengmeng Di
    • 1
  • Bizhi Shi
    • 1
  • Hua Jiang
    • 1
  • Zhimin Shi
    • 2
  • Ying Liu
    • 1
  • Yi Wang
    • 1
  • Hong Luo
    • 1
  • Min Yu
    • 1
  • Xiuqi Wu
    • 1
  • Zonghai Li
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Oncogenes and Related Genes, Shanghai Cancer Institute, Renji HospitalShanghai Jiaotong University School of MedicineShanghaiChina
  2. 2.CARsgen TherapeuticsShanghaiChina

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