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Dendritic cells (DCs) transfected with recombinant, replication-defective adenovirus (Ad) vectors encoding the human telomerase reverse transcriptase (hTERT) are potent inducers of cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) and anti-tumour immunity. However, previous studies have mostly been in vitro. In this study, we sought to determine whether DCs transfected with hTERT (DC/Ad-hTERT) could elicit a potent anti-tumour immunogenic response in vivo. We found that murine DCs transfected with recombinant adenovirus encoding the hTERT gene (DC/Ad-hTERT) induced hTERT-specific CTLs in vivo effectively, compared with Ad-LacZ-transduced DC (DC/Ad-LacZ) controls. These hTERT-specific CTLs lysed various tumour cell lines in an hTERT-specific and MHC-I molecule-restricted fashion. We also found that DC/Ad-hTERT could increase antigen-specific T-cell proliferation and augment the number of IFN-γ secreting T-cells in mice. These data suggest that the DC/Ad-hTERT vaccine may induce anti-tumour immunity against tumour cells expressing hTERT in an MHC-I molecule-restricted fashion in vivo through the augmentation of the hTERT-specific CTL response. The DC/Ad-hTERT vaccine may thus be used as an efficient DC-based tumour vaccine in clinical applications. Copyright © 2008 Pathological Society of Great Britain and Ireland. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.