Variation in the preservation of β cell function in clinical trials in type 1 diabetes (T1D) has emphasized the need to define biomarkers to predict treatment response. The T1DAL trial targeted T cells with alefacept (LFA-3–Ig) and demonstrated C-peptide preservation in approximately 30% of new-onset T1D individuals. We analyzed islet antigen–reactive (IAR) CD4+ T cells in PBMC samples collected prior to treatment from alefacept- and placebo-treated individuals using flow cytometry and single-cell RNA sequencing. IAR CD4+ T cells at baseline had heterogeneous phenotypes. Transcript profiles formed phenotypic clusters of cells along a trajectory based on increasing maturation and activation, and T cell receptor (TCR) chains showed clonal expansion. Notably, the frequency of IAR CD4+ T cells with a memory phenotype and a unique transcript profile (cluster 3) were inversely correlated with C-peptide preservation in alefacept-treated, but not placebo-treated, individuals. Cluster 3 cells had a proinflammatory phenotype characterized by expression of the transcription factor BHLHE40 and the cytokines GM-CSF and TNF-α, and shared TCR chains with effector memory–like clusters. Our results suggest IAR CD4+ T cells as a potential baseline biomarker of response to therapies targeting the CD2 pathway and warrant investigation for other T cell–related therapies.
Elisa Balmas, Janice Chen, Alex K. Hu, Hannah A. DeBerg, Mario G. Rosasco, Vivian H. Gersuk, Elisavet Serti, Cate Speake, Carla J. Greenbaum, Gerald T. Nepom, Peter S. Linsley, Karen Cerosaletti