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Targeted Biallelic Integration Of An Inducible Caspase 9 Suicide Gene For Safer Cellular Therapies Prevents Development Of Drug-resistant Escapees In Human IPSCs

Stephanie Wunderlich, Alexandra Haase, Sylvia Merkert, Kirsten Jahn, Maximillian Deest, Silke Glage, Wilhelm Korte, Andreas Martens, Andreas Kirschning, Andre Zeug, Evgeni Ponimaskin, Gudrun Goehring, Mania Ackermann, Nico Lachmann, Thomas Moritz, Robert Zweigerdt, Ulrich Martin

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AbstractDrug-inducible suicide systems may help to minimize risks of cellular therapies due to the tumor forming potential of human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs). Recent research challenged the usefulness of such systems since rare drug-resistant subclones were observed that showed elimination or silencing of the transgene.We have introduced a drug-inducible Caspase9 suicide system (iCASP9) into the AAVS1 safe harbor locus of hiPSCs. In these cells, apoptosis could be efficiently induced in vitro. In mice, drug treatment generally led to rapid elimination of teratomas, but individual animals subsequently formed tumor tissue from monoallelic iCASP9 hiPSCs. Very rare drug-resistant subclones of monoallelic iCASP9 hiPSCs appeared in vitro with frequencies of ~ 3×10-8. Transgene elimination, presumably via Loss of Heterozygosity (LoH), or methylation of the CAG promoter but not methylation of the ppp1r12c locus were identified as underlying mechanisms. In contrast, we never observed any escapees from biallelic iCASP9 hiPSCs, even after treatment of up to 0.8 billion hiPSCs.In conclusion, biallelic integration of an iCASP9 system in the AAVS1 locus may substantially contribute to the safety level of iPSC-based therapies, which should be calculated by relating clonal escapee frequencies to the cell number in tumors of a size that is readily detectable during routine screening procedures.