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Cancer Res. 2001 Nov 15;61(22):8218-26.

Phases of apoptosis of melanoma cells, but not of normal melanocytes, differently affect maturation of myeloid dendritic cells.

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Unit of Human Tumors Immunobiology, Department of Experimental Oncology, Istituto Nazionale per lo Studio e la Cura dei Tumori, Via Venezian 1, 20133 Milan, Italy.


In this study, we investigated whether maturation of monocyte-derived myeloid dendritic cells (DCs) is differentially affected by the uptake of dying human melanoma cells in distinct phases of apoptosis. Maturation of monocyte-derived DCs, as documented by phenotype analysis and T-cell immunostimulatory activity, was inhibited by phagocytosis of dying melanoma cells containing a large fraction of cells in early apoptosis (Annexin-V+ and propidium iodide-) but promoted by the same tumors when in late apoptosis/secondary necrosis (Annexin-V+ and propidium iodide+) or when dying by primary necrosis. These opposite effects on DC maturation were observed after the uptake of early or late apoptotic cells from most vertical growth phase primary tumors and all metastases but not after the uptake of dying cells from a radial growth phase primary tumor or normal adult melanocytes. Inhibition of DC maturation by early apoptotic melanoma cells correlated with expression of interleukin-10 in neoplastic cells and was prevented by preincubating the tumor cells with a neutralizing antibody to interleukin-10 before tumor uptake by DCs. Cross-presentation of the melanoma-associated antigen gp100(209-217) to peptide-specific CTLs by HLA-A*0201+ DCs was achieved 48-72 h after phagocytosis of HLA-A*0201- melanoma cells in apoptosis, or primary necrosis, but only when tumor necrosis factor-alpha was added to DCs 4 h after the initiation of tumor phagocytosis. These results suggest that phases of apoptosis and neoplastic transformation affect maturation of myeloid DCs that take up dying cells of the melanocyte lineage. However, neoplastic cells in late apoptosis, or even in primary necrosis, induce only a partial DC differentiation not sufficient to achieve cross-presentation of tumor antigens to CTLs unless further DC maturation is promoted by additional signals. These results suggest a novel mechanism of tumor escape that may prevent the development of antitumor immunity through the maturation block induced in DCs by neoplastic cells in the early phase of apoptosis.

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