Cytotoxic T lymphocytes eliminate tumor cells expressing antigenic peptides in the context of MHC-I molecules. Peptides are generated during protein degradation by the proteasome and resulting products, surviving cytosolic amino-peptidases activity, may be presented by MHC-I molecules. The MHC-I processing pathway is altered in a large number of malignancies and modulation of antigen generation is one strategy employed by cells to evade immune control. In this study we analyzed the generation and presentation of a survivin-derived CTL epitope in HLA-A2-positive colon-carcinoma cells. Although all cell lines expressed the anti-apoptotic protein survivin, some tumors were poorly recognized by ELTLGEFLKL (ELT)-specific CTL cultures. The expression of MHC-I or TAP molecules was similar in all cell lines suggesting that tumors not recognized by CTLs may present defects in the generation of the ELT-epitope which could be due either to lack of generation or to subsequent degradation of the epitope. The cells were analyzed for the expression and the activity of extra-proteasomal peptidases. A significant overexpression and higher activity of TPPII was observed in colon-carcinoma cells which are not killed by ELT-specific CTLs, suggesting a possible role of TPPII in the degradation of the ELT-epitope. To confirm the role of TPPII in the degradation of the ELT-peptide, we showed that treatment of colon-carcinoma cells with a TPPII inhibitor resulted in a dose-dependent increased sensitivity to ELT-specific CTLs. These results suggest that TPPII is involved in degradation of the ELT-peptide, and its overexpression may contribute to the immune escape of colon-carcinoma cells.
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