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J Immunol. 2002 Jan 15;168(2):651-60.

Can the low-avidity self-specific T cell repertoire be exploited for tumor rejection?

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  • 1Division of Immunology, The Netherlands Cancer Institute, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


Can self-specific T cells that have escaped intrathymic deletion be exploited to generate antitumor immunity? To determine whether antitumor immunity to a self-Ag for which central tolerance exists can be generated, a mouse model is used in which a fragment of the influenza nucleoprotein (NP) is expressed as a transgene under the control of the H-2K promoter in C57BL/10 mice (B10NP mice). In these mice an oligoclonal population of NP-specific T cells escapes thymic and peripheral deletion and can be activated upon immunization. The main hallmark of these self-specific CD8(+) T cells is diminished avidity for the pertinent MHC/peptide complex. We show in this study that intranasal infection with influenza virus can stimulate low-avidity NP-specific T cells to recognize and destroy NP-expressing microtumors in the lung, but not NP-expressing tumors growing s.c. Only a memory NP-specific CD8(+) T cell response can suppress the growth of an s.c. growing NP-expressing tumor. This delay in tumor growth is associated with a dramatic increase in the number of circulating NP-specific CD8(+) T cells. In addition, cultured memory NP-specific T cells require approximately 100-fold less Ag to induce NP-specific lysis than primary T cells, consistent with the observation that memory T cells have an increased avidity due to affinity maturation. Finally, during an NP-specific memory response, substantial numbers of low-avidity NP-specific T cells can be recovered from s.c. growing tumors. Together, these findings indicate that, when only a low-avidity repertoire is available to generate antitumor immunity, the best strategy may be to enhance memory responses.

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