Apoptosis-dependent subversion of the T-lymphocyte epitope hierarchy in lymphoma cells

Paola Castiglioni, Alfonso Martin-Fontecha, Gabriella Milan, Valentina Tomajer, Fulvio Magni, Jakob Michaelsson, Claudio Rugarli, Antonio Rosato, Matteo Bellone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Tumor cells undergoing programmed death are an attractive source of tumor-associated antigens, and evidences are available for their therapeutic efficacy in vivo when used either alone or in association with dendritic cells. However, little is known about the specificity of the immune response induced by such antigen formulation. Indeed, activation of specific proteases during apoptosis may influence the cytoplasmic degradation of proteins and the generation of CTL epitopes. We show here that on injection of C57BL/6 mice either with RMA lymphoma cells induced to apoptosis or bone marrow-derived dendritic cells pulsed with apoptotic RMA cells, a specific and protective CTL response is induced, which, however, is not directed against the immunodominant CTL epitope gag85-93. Lack of in vivo expansion of gag85-93-specific CTL in vaccinated mice is attributable to the apoptosis-dependent loss of gag85-93 in dying tumor cells. Indeed, we found loss of gag85-93 in RMA, MBL-2, and EL-4G+ lymphoma cells, which share gag85-93 as an immunodominant CTL epitope, induced to apoptosis by UV irradiation, mitomycin C, doxorubicin, or daunorubicin. This phenomenon appears to be caspase-dependent, because caspase inhibition by N-benzyloxycarbonyl-Val-Ala-asp-fluoromethylketone prevents apoptosis of lymphoma cells and loss of gag85-93. Therefore, subversion of the epitope hierarchy in apoptotic tumor cells might be relevant in the induction of tumor-specific T-lymphocyte responses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1116-1122
Number of pages7
JournalCancer Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Oncology


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