An Influenza Virus M2 Protein Specific Chimeric Antigen Receptor Modulates Influenza A/WSN/33 H1N1 Infection In Vivo

Simon J Talbot*, 1, Natalie F Blair 1, Niolette McGill 1, Yvonne Ligertwood 2, Bernadette M Dutia 2, Ingo Johannessen 1
1 University of Edinburgh, Division of Pathway Medicine, Chancellors building, Little France, Edinburgh EH16 4SB, UK
2 University of Edinburgh, The Roslin Institute and R(D)SVS, Easter Bush, Edinburgh, EH25 9RG, UK

© Talbot et al.; Licensee Bentham Open.

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* Address correspondence to this author at the University of Edinburgh, Division of Pathway Medicine, Chancellors building, Little France, Edinburgh EH16 4SB, UK; Tel: +44 131 2426282; E-mail:


A potential target for the development of universal vaccine strategies against Influenza A is the M2 protein – a membrane protein with a highly conserved extracellular domain. In this study we developed engineered T-cell receptors, by fusing M2-specific antibody sequences with T-cell receptor transmembrane and signaling domains to target influenza infected cells. When expressed on T-cells, these novel T-cell receptors (chimeric antigen receptors - CARs) are able to recognize specific antigens on the surface of target cells via an MHC-independent mechanism. Using an existing monoclonal antibody (14C2) specific for the M2 ectodomain (M2e), we generated an M2-specific CAR. We tested the specificity of this M2 CAR in vitro by measuring the activation of T-cells in response to M2-specific peptides or M2-expressing cell lines. Both Jurkat T-cells and peripheral blood mononuclear cells expressing the M2-specific CAR responded to specific antigen stimulation by upregulating NFAT and producing γ-interferon. To test whether the M2-specific CAR are effective at recognizing influenza infected cells in vivo we used an established BALB/c murine infection model. At day 4 post-infection, when M2 CAR expressing splenocytes could be detected in the lung, the Influenza A/WSN/33 virus titre was around 50% of that in control mice. Although the lung virus titre later increased in the treated group, virus was cleared in both groups of mice by day 8. The results provide support for the development of M2e as a target for cell mediated immunotherapy.

Keywords: Antibody, chimeric antigen receptor, influenza A, M2, T-cell, therapy, virus..