The exploitation of the physiologic processing and presenting machinery of DCs by in vivo loading of tumor-associated antigens may improve the immunogenic potential and clinical efficacy of DC-based cancer vaccines. Here we show that lymphocytes genetically modified to express self/tumor antigens, acting as antigen carriers, efficiently target DCs in vivo in tumor-bearing mice. The infusion of tyrosinase-related protein 2-transduced (TRP-2-transduced) lymphocytes induced the establishment of protective immunity and long-term memory in tumor-bearing mice. Analysis of the mechanism responsible for the induction of such an immune response allowed us to demonstrate that cross-presentation of the antigen mediated by the CD11c+CD8α + DC subset had occurred. Furthermore, we demonstrated in vivo and in vitro that DCs had undergone activation upon phagocytosis of genetically modified lymphocytes, a process mediated by a cell-to-cell contact mechanism independent of CD40 triggering. Targeting and activation of secondary lymphoid organ-resident DCs endowed antigen-specific T cells with full effector functions, which ultimately increased tumor growth control and animal survival in a therapeutic tumor setting. We conclude that the use of transduced lymphocytes represents an efficient method for the in vivo loading of tumor-associated antigens on DCs.
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