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Mol Ther. 2003 Aug;8(2):274-83.

Identification of an HLA-A*0201-restricted epitopic peptide from human dystrophin: application in duchenne muscular dystrophy gene therapy.

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Laboratoire d'Immunologie, Généthon, CNRS UMR 8115, 91002, Evry Cedex, France.


Dystrophin-based gene therapy treatments aimed at correcting the Duchenne muscular dystrophy phenotype require stable expression of normal dystrophin (DYST) protein in myocytes without immune responses, which would compromise long-term expression. To predict cytotoxic T-cell-mediated responses elicited by transgenes, we used here H-2-negative HLA-A*0201 transgenic mice and identified human DYST epitopes, which elicit HLA-A*0201-restricted cytotoxic T cell activities. Among a series of eight peptides predicted from the human DYST sequence, not shared with the endogenous mouse DYST sequence, four of them were able to bind to HLA-A*0201 molecules and to induce cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) responses. After human DYST DNA transfer in muscle of HLA-A*0201 mice, only the human DYST1281 epitope, located in the spectrin-like repeat 9 domain, induced strong CD8(+) CTL responses. Using the corresponding human DYST1281 peptide/HLA-A*0201 tetramer, we detected human DYST1281-specific CD8(+) T cells in peripheral lymphoid organs and blood of HLA-A*0201 mice injected with human DYST DNA. Our results demonstrate that muscle injection with human DYST DNA systematically triggers CTL responses against this HLA-A*0201-restricted human DYST1281 peptide, which is present in long human DYST isoforms. Identification of such immunodominant human DYST epitopes and use of peptide/HLA tetramers will allow the immunomonitoring of CTL responses in HLA-phenotyped Duchenne muscular dystrophy patients undergoing gene therapy. Finally, the knowledge of HLA-A*0201-restricted human DYST peptides will be of importance to test, in mouse models, new immunomodulatory interventions allowing long-term engraftment of human dystrophin.

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