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J Exp Med. 1998 Sep 21;188(6):1005-16.

Translation of a retained intron in tyrosinase-related protein (TRP) 2 mRNA generates a new cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL)-defined and shared human melanoma antigen not expressed in normal cells of the melanocytic lineage.

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Division of Experimental Oncology D, Istituto Nazionale Tumori, Milan, Italy.


We report here the identification of a new shared human melanoma antigen recognized by a human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-A*68011-restricted cytotoxic T lymphocyte clone (CTL 128). The cDNA encoding this antigen is composed of a partially spliced form of the melanocyte differentiation antigen tyrosinase-related protein (TRP)-2, containing exons 1-4 with retention of intron 2 and part of intron 4 (TRP-2-INT2). The sequence coding for the antigenic epitope is located at the 5' end of intron 2 and is available for translation in the same open reading frame of the fully spliced TRP-2 mRNA. This peptide is also recognized by CTL 128 when presented by the HLA-A*3301, a member of the HLA-A3-like supertype that includes the HLA-A*68011. Quantitative reverse transcription PCR analysis carried out on total and/or cytoplasmic mRNA demonstrated that, in contrast to the fully spliced TRP-2 mRNA expressed in melanomas, normal skin melanocytes, and retina, the TRP-2-INT2 mRNA could be detected at significant levels in melanomas but not in normal cells of the melanocytic lineage. Instead, in these normal samples, both the spliced and the unspliced transcript of gp100 were expressed at high levels. Absence of endogenous TRP-2-INT2 expression in melanocytes was also confirmed by lack of recognition of HLA-A*68011-transduced, TRP-2(+) melanocyte lines by CTL 128. These results indicate that a partially spliced form of a differentiation antigen mRNA, present in the cytoplasmic compartment of neoplastic but not normal cells of the melanocytic lineage, can be the source of a melanoma-restricted T cell epitope.

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