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Blood. 2015 May 7;125(19):2958-67. doi: 10.1182/blood-2014-10-609271. Epub 2015 Mar 26.

Thymic expression of a T-cell receptor targeting a tumor-associated antigen coexpressed in the thymus induces T-ALL.

Author information

Pediatric Oncology Branch and.
Genetics Branch, Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, MD;
Flow Cytometry Core Facility, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD;
Molecular Cytogenetics Core, Mouse Cancer Genetics Program, Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute-Frederick, Frederick, MD; and.
Cancer Research Technology Program, Leidos Biomedical Research, Inc., Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research, Frederick, MD.


T-cell receptors (TCRs) and chimeric antigen receptors recognizing tumor-associated antigens (TAAs) can now be engineered to be expressed on a wide array of immune effectors. Engineered receptors targeting TAAs have most commonly been expressed on mature T cells, however, some have postulated that receptor expression on immune progenitors could yield T cells with enhanced potency. We generated mice (survivin-TCR-transgenic [Sur-TCR-Tg]) expressing a TCR recognizing the immunodominant epitope (Sur20-28) of murine survivin during early stages of thymopoiesis. Spontaneous T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL) occurred in 100% of Sur-TCR-Tg mice derived from 3 separate founders. The leukemias expressed the Sur-TCR and signaled in response to the Sur20-28 peptide. In preleukemic mice, we observed increased cycling of double-negative thymocytes expressing the Sur-TCR and increased nuclear translocation of nuclear factor of activated T cells, consistent with TCR signaling induced by survivin expression in the murine thymus. β2M(-/-) Sur-TCR-Tg mice, which cannot effectively present survivin peptides on class I major histocompatibility complex, had significantly diminished rates of leukemia. We conclude that TCR signaling during the early stages of thymopoiesis mediates an oncogenic signal, and therefore expression of signaling receptors on developing thymocytes with specificity for TAAs expressed in the thymus could pose a risk for neoplasia, independent of insertional mutagenesis.

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