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J Biol Chem. 2010 Sep 17;285(38):29608-22. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M110.126722. Epub 2010 Jul 8.

A conserved E7-derived cytotoxic T lymphocyte epitope expressed on human papillomavirus 16-transformed HLA-A2+ epithelial cancers.

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Cancer Vaccine Center, Laboratory of Immunobiology, Department of Medical Oncology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.


Human Papillomavirus 16 (HPV-16) has been identified as the causative agent of 50% of cervical cancers and many other HPV-associated tumors. The transforming potential/tumor maintenance capacity of this high risk HPV is mediated by two viral oncoproteins, E6 and E7, making them attractive targets for therapeutic vaccines. Of 21 E6 and E7 peptides computed to bind HLA-A*0201, 10 were confirmed through TAP-deficient T2 cell HLA stabilization assay. Those scoring positive were investigated to ascertain which were naturally processed and presented by surface HLA molecules for CTL recognition. Because IFNγ ELISpot frequencies from healthy HPV-exposed blood donors against HLA-A*0201-binding peptides were unable to identify specificities for tumor targeting, their physical presence among peptides eluted from HPV-16-transformed epithelial tumor HLA-A*0201 immunoprecipitates was analyzed by MS(3) Poisson detection mass spectrometry. Only one epitope (E7(11-19)) highly conserved among HPV-16 strains was detected. This 9-mer serves to direct cytolysis by T cell lines, whereas a related 10-mer (E7(11-20)), previously used as a vaccine candidate, was neither detected by MS(3) on HPV-transformed tumor cells nor effectively recognized by 9-mer specific CTL. These data underscore the importance of precisely defining CTL epitopes on tumor cells and offer a paradigm for T cell-based vaccine design.

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