TAP-independent self-peptides enhance T cell recognition of immune-escaped tumors


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Abstract

Tumor cells frequently escape from CD8+ T cell recognition by abrogating MHC-I antigen presentation. Deficiency in processing components, like the transporter associated with antigen processing (TAP), results in strongly decreased surface display of peptide/MHC-I complexes. We previously identified a class of hidden self-antigens known as T cell epitopes associated with impaired peptide processing (TEIPP), which emerge on tumor cells with such processing defects. In the present study, we analyzed thymus selection and peripheral behavior of T cells with specificity for the prototypic TEIPP antigen, the “self” TRH4 peptide/Db complex. TEIPP T cells were efficiently selected in the thymus, egressed with a naive phenotype, and could be exploited for immunotherapy against immune-escaped, TAP-deficient tumor cells expressing low levels of MHC-I (MHC-Ilo). In contrast, overt thymus deletion and functionally impaired TEIPP T cells were observed in mice deficient for TAP1 due to TEIPP antigen presentation on all body cells in these mice. Our results strongly support the concept that TEIPPs derive from ubiquitous, nonmutated self-antigens and constitute a class of immunogenic neoantigens that are unmasked during tumor immune evasion. These data suggest that TEIPP-specific CD8+ T cells are promising candidates in the treatment of tumors that have escaped from conventional immunotherapies.

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