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Cancer Res. 2000 Sep 1;60(17):4855-63.

Identification of a tumor-specific shared antigen derived from an Eph receptor and presented to CD4 T cells on HLA class II molecules.

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  • 1Cellular Genetics Unit, UniversitĂ© Catholique de Louvain, Brussels, Belgium.


We obtained a lytic CD4 T-cell clone that recognized an antigen presented by HLA-DRB1*1101 on the tumor cells of a melanoma patient who enjoyed an unusually favorable clinical evolution. The antigen appeared to be shared between several melanoma cell lines. To identify the encoding gene, we used a new method, based on the cotransfection into human embryonal kidney cell line 293 of a cDNA library from the tumor together with a cDNA clone encoding the class II transactivator, which induces the expression of HLA class II molecules. The product of the gene coding for the antigenic peptide is EphA3, a member of the Eph family of tyrosine kinase receptors, which mediate the repulsion of neural cells by cells carrying the ligand Ephrins on their surface. EphA3 is expressed at a high level in the retina and fetal brain, at a lower level in several normal tissues, and not at all in hematopoietic cells, the only cells that constitutively express HLA class II molecules. It is overexpressed in several types of tumors, including melanoma, lung carcinoma, and sarcoma. On the basis of this pattern of expression, EphA3 may be a source of tumor-specific antigens recognized on tumor cells that express HLA class II molecules. Anti-EphA3 T cells may have participated in a tumor rejection response in the patient, because the cells of metastases collected several years later than the metastasis used to characterize the antigen had lost expression of HLA-DR or EphA3, therefore escaping recognition by these lymphocytes.

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