The Tat-conjugated N-terminal region of mucin antigen 1 (MUC1) induces protective immunity against MUC1-expressing tumours

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SummaryMucin antigen 1 (MUC1) is overexpressed on various human adenocarcinomas and haematological malignancies and has long been used as a target antigen for cancer immunotherapy. Most of the preclinical and clinical studies using MUC1 have used the tandem repeat region of MUC1, which could be presented by only a limited set of major histocompatibility complex haplotypes. Here, we evaluated N-terminal region (2-147 amino acids) of MUC1 (MUC1-N) for dendritic cell (DC)-based cancer immunotherapy. We used Esherichia coli-derived MUC1-N that was fused to the protein transduction domain of human immunodeficiency virus Tat protein for three reasons. First, mature DCs do not phagocytose soluble protein antigens. Secondly, tumour cells express underglycosylated MUC1, which can generate epitopes repertoire that differs from normal cells, which express hyperglycosylated MUC1. Finally, aberrantly glycosylated MUC1 has been known to impair DC function. In our study, Tat-MUC1-N-loaded DCs induced type 1 T cell responses as well as cytotoxic T lymphocytes efficiently. Furthermore, they could break tolerance in the transgenic breast tumour mouse model, where MUC1-positive breast cancers grow spontaneously. Compared with DCs pulsed with unconjugated MUC1-N, DCs loaded with Tat-conjugated MUC1-N could delay tumour growth more effectively in the transgenic tumour model as well as in the tumour injection model. These results suggest that the recombinant N-terminal part of MUC1, which may provide a diverse epitope repertoire, could be utilized as an effective tumour antigen for DC-based cancer immunotherapy.

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