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J Natl Cancer Inst. 1995 Feb 15;87(4):280-5.

Molecular characterization of defective antigen processing in human prostate cancer.

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  • 1Brady Urological Institute and Oncology Center, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA.



Gene-modified tumor cell vaccines have shown efficacy in animal models of malignancy, including prostate cancer. Class I major histocompatibility complex (MHC) assembly and function in the cellular targets of such therapies is pivotal in determining the efficacy of specific cytokine-secreting tumor vaccines.


To help guide development of genetically engineered vaccine therapy for human prostate cancer, potential immune resistance pathways were evaluated by analysis of class I MHC assembly in prostate cancer cells.


Class I MHC assembly in metastasis-derived human prostate cancer cell lines (LNCaP, PPC-1, DU-145, PC-3, and TSU) and a normal prostate-derived cell line (TP-2) were characterized by phenotypic, molecular, and functional assays. Assembled class I MHC and antigen was measured by flow cytometry; mRNA levels of assembly components (class I MHC heavy chain, beta 2-microglobulin, and the antigen transporter gene product TAP-2) were determined; and antigen processing was measured with a chimeric reconstituted system using vaccinia vectors. Restoration of antigen processing was attempted by interferon gamma stimulation and by transfection with mouse class I MHC heavy-chain cDNA.


Assembled class I MHC was underexpressed in two (LNCaP and PPC-1) of five prostate cancer cell lines compared with normal prostate-derived controls. PPC-1 cells underexpressed TAP-2 mRNA despite abundant class I MHC and beta 2-microglobulin message. Induction of TAP-2 by interferon gamma indicated that coding sequences for TAP-2 message were present in PPC-1. Resistance to cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL) lysis showed a functional defect in antigen transport by PPC-1 cells; reversal of the molecular defect with interferon gamma led to restoration of functional antigen processing. In contrast, LNCaP cells had competent antigen transport but deficient class I MHC heavy-chain function despite abundant class I MHC RNA; though refractory to stimulation by interferon gamma, this defect responded to transfection of class I MHC heavy-chain cDNA.


Metastatic prostate cancer cells can escape T-cell recognition via divergent mechanisms of defective class I MHC assembly. The specific underexpression of TAP-2 gene product in PPC-1 cells contrasts with prior studies of TAP gene underexpression in lung cancer (which concurrently underexpressed class I MHC heavy chain) and provides evidence for a regulatory pathway controlling TAP-2 gene expression in human cancers that may not affect class I MHC heavy-chain expression.


In clinical application of gene therapy for prostate cancer, these findings provide a rationale for focusing on strategies that can circumvent sole reliance on class I MHC-mediated tumor cell recognition by CTL.

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