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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1997 Nov 25;94(24):13146-51.

Heat shock fusion proteins as vehicles for antigen delivery into the major histocompatibility complex class I presentation pathway.

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  • 1Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, Cambridge, MA 02142, USA.


Mice immunized with heat shock proteins (hsps) isolated from mouse tumor cells (donor cells) produce CD8 cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL) that recognize donor cell peptides in association with the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I proteins of the responding mouse. The CTL are induced apparently because peptides noncovalently associated with the isolated hsp molecules can enter the MHC class I antigen processing pathway of professional antigen-presenting cells. Using a recombinant heat shock fusion protein with a large fragment of ovalbumin covalently linked to mycobacterial hsp70, we show here that when the soluble fusion protein was injected without adjuvant into H-2b mice, CTL were produced that recognized an ovalbumin-derived peptide, SIINFEKL, in association with Kb. The peptide is known to arise from natural processing of ovalbumin in H-2b mouse cells, and CTL from the ovalbumin-hsp70-immunized mice and a highly effective CTL clone (4G3) raised against ovalbumin-expressing EL4 tumor cells (EG7-OVA) were equally effective in terms of the concentration of SIINFEKL required for half-maximal lysis in a CTL assay. The mice were also protected against lethal challenge with ovalbumin-expressing melanoma tumor cells. Because large protein fragments or whole proteins serving as fusion partners can be cleaved into short peptides in the MHC class I processing pathway, hsp fusion proteins of the type described here are promising candidates for vaccines aimed at eliciting CD8 CTL in populations of MHC-disparate individuals.

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