We and others have previously reported that melanoma-specific, cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL) define a minimum of six class I-presented peptide epitopes common to most HLA-A2 melanomas. Here we show that three of these peptide epitopes are coordinately recognized by a CTL clone obtained by limiting dilution from the peripheral blood of an HLA-A2+ melanoma patient. Tandem mass spectrometry was used to characterize and sequence one of these three naturally processed melanoma peptides. One of the potential forms of the deduced peptide sequence (XXTVXXGVX, X = I or L) matches positions 32-40 of the recently identified melanoma gene MART-1/Melan-A. This peptide (p939; ILTVILGVL) binds to HLA-A2 with an intermediate-to-low affinity and is capable of sensitizing the HLA-A2+ T2 cell line to lysis by CTL lines and clones derived from five different melanoma patients. A relative high frequency of anti-p939-specific effector cells appear to be present in situ in HLA-A2+ melanoma patients, since p939 is also recognized by freshly isolated tumor infiltrating lymphocytes. p939 represents a good candidate for the development of peptide-based immunotherapies for the treatment of patients with melanoma.
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