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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2014 Jan 7;111(1):403-8. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1306549111. Epub 2013 Dec 16.

Alloreactive cytotoxic T cells provide means to decipher the immunopeptidome and reveal a plethora of tumor-associated self-epitopes.

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Department of Immunology, Institute for Cancer Research, Oslo University Hospital Radiumhospitalet, N-0310 Oslo, Norway.


HLA molecules presenting peptides derived from tumor-associated self-antigens (self-TAA) are attractive targets for T-cell-based immunotherapy of cancer. However, detection of such epitopes is hampered by self-tolerance and limitations in the sensitivity of mass spectrometry. Here, we used T cells from HLA-A2-negative donors as tools to detect HLA-A2-bound peptides from two leukemia-associated differentiation antigens; CD20 and the previously undescribed cancer target myeloperoxidase. A high-throughput platform for epitope discovery was designed using dendritic cells cotransfected with full-length transcripts of self-TAA and HLA-A2 to allow presentation of all naturally processed peptides from a predefined self-protein on foreign HLA. Antigen-reactive T cells were directly detected using panels of color-coded peptide-HLA multimers containing epitopes predicted by a computer algorithm. Strikingly, cytotoxic T cells were generated against 37 out of 50 peptides predicted to bind HLA-A2. Among these, 36 epitopes were previously undescribed. The allorestricted T cells were exquisitely peptide- and HLA-specific and responded strongly to HLA-A2-positive leukemic cells with endogenous expression of CD20 or myeloperoxidase. These results indicate that the repertoire of self-peptides presented on HLA class I has been underestimated and that a wealth of self-TAA can be targeted by T cells when using nontolerized T-cell repertoires.

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