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J Immunol. 2006 Jul 1;177(1):155-61.

A modified tyrosinase-related protein 2 epitope generates high-affinity tumor-specific T cells but does not mediate therapeutic efficacy in an intradermal tumor model.

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Department of Pharmacology, 3M Pharmaceuticals, St. Paul, MN 55144, USA.


The generation of tumor-specific T cells is hampered by the presentation of poorly immunogenic tumor-specific epitopes by the tumor. Here, we demonstrate that, although CD8+ T cells specific for the self/tumor Ag tyrosinase-related protein 2 (TRP2) are readily detected in tumor-bearing hosts, vaccination of either tumor-bearing or naive mice with an epitope derived from TRP2 fails to generate significant numbers of tetramer-staining TRP2-specific T cells or antitumor immunity. We identified an altered peptide epitope, called deltaV, which elicits T cell responses that are cross-reactive to the wild-type TRP2 epitope. Immunization with deltaV generates T cells with increased affinity for TRP2 compared with immunization with the wild-type TRP2 epitope, although TRP2 immunization often generates a greater number of TRP2-specific T cells based on intracellular IFN-gamma analysis. Despite generating higher affinity responses, deltaV immunization alone fails to provide any greater therapeutic efficacy against tumor growth than TRP2 immunization. This lack of tumor protection is most likely a result of both the deletion of high affinity and functional tolerance induction of lower affinity TRP2-specific T cells. Our data contribute to a growing literature demonstrating the ability of variant peptide epitopes to generate higher affinity T cell responses against tumor-specific Ags. However, consistent with most clinical data, simple generation of higher affinity T cells is insufficient to mediate tumor immunity.

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