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Cancer Res. 2005 Jul 15;65(14):6418-24.

Immunoselective pressure and human leukocyte antigen class I antigen machinery defects in microsatellite unstable colorectal cancers.

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Institute of Molecular Pathology, University of Heidelberg, Germany.


In colorectal cancer, the immune response is particularly pronounced against tumors displaying the high microsatellite instability (MSI-H) phenotype. MSI-H tumors accumulate mutations affecting microsatellites located within protein encoding regions (coding microsatellites, cMS), which lead to translational shifts of the respective reading frames. Consequently, novel tumor-specific frameshift-derived neopeptides (FSP) are generated and presented by MSI-H tumor cells, thus eliciting effective cytotoxic immune responses. To analyze whether the immunoselective pressure was reflected by the phenotype of MSI-H colorectal cancer cells, we compared here the expression of antigen processing machinery (APM) components and human leukocyte antigen (HLA) class I antigen subunits in 20 MSI-H and 20 microsatellite-stable (MSS) colorectal cancer using a panel of newly developed APM component-specific monoclonal antibodies. In addition, we did a systematic analysis of mutations at cMS located within APM genes and beta2-microglobulin (beta2m). Total HLA class I antigen loss was observed in 12 (60.0%) of the 20 MSI-H lesions compared with only 6 (30.0%) of the 20 MSS colorectal cancer lesions. Moreover, total loss of membraneous HLA-A staining was significantly more frequent in MSI-H colorectal cancer (P = 0.0024). Mutations at cMS of beta2m and genes encoding APM components (TAP1 and TAP2) were detected in at least 7 (35.0%) of 20 MSI-H colorectal cancers but in none of the MSS colorectal cancers (P = 0.0002). These data show that defects of HLA class I antigen processing and presentation seem to be significantly more frequent in MSI-H than in MSS colorectal cancer, suggesting that in MSI-H colorectal cancer the immunoselective pressure leads to the outgrowth of cells with defects of antigen presentation.

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