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Concept: MHC class I


Dendritic cells (DCs) are considered the most potent antigen-presenting cells (APCs), which directly prime or cross-prime MHC I-restricted cytotoxic T cells (CTLs). However, recent evidence suggests the existence of other, as-yet unidentified APCs also able to prime T cells. To identify those APCs, we used adenoviral (rAd) vectors, which do not infect DCs but selectively accumulate in CD169(+) macrophages (MPs). In mice that lack DCs, infection of CD169(+) MPs was sufficient to prime CTLs specific for all epitopes tested. In contrast, CTL responses relying exclusively on cross-presenting DCs were biased to selected strong MHC I-binding peptides only. When both DCs and MPs were absent, no CTL responses could be elicited. Therefore, CD169(+) MPs can be considered APCs that significantly contribute to CTL responses.

Concepts: Immune system, White blood cell, Virus, Antigen, Cytotoxic T cell, Dendritic cell, MHC class I, Antigen-presenting cell


Devil facial tumour disease (DFTD) is a fatal contagious cancer that has decimated Tasmanian devil populations. The tumour has spread without invoking immune responses, possibly due to low levels of Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) diversity in Tasmanian devils. Animals from a region in north-western Tasmania have lower infection rates than those in the east of the state. This area is a genetic transition zone between sub-populations, with individuals from north-western Tasmania displaying greater diversity than eastern devils at MHC genes, primarily through MHC class I gene copy number variation. Here we test the hypothesis that animals that remain healthy and tumour free show predictable differences at MHC loci compared to animals that develop the disease.

Concepts: Immune system, Gene, Genetics, Major histocompatibility complex, MHC class I, Tasmania, Devil facial tumour disease, Tasmanian Devil


Class I HLA’s polymorphism has hampered CTL epitope mapping with laborious experiments. Objectives are 1) to evaluate the novel in silico model in predicting previously reported epitopes in comparison with existing program, and 2) to apply the model to predict optimal epitopes with HLA using experimental results.

Concepts: B cell, MHC class I, Hypothesis


It is generally accepted that the success of immunotherapy depends on the presence of tumor-specific CD8+ cytotoxic T cells and the modulation of the tumor environment. In this study, we validated mRNA encoding soluble factors as a tool to modulate the tumor microenvironment to potentiate infiltration of tumor-specific T cells. Intratumoral delivery of mRNA encoding a fusion protein consisting of interferon-β and the ectodomain of the transforming growth factor-β receptor II, referred to as Fβ2, showed therapeutic potential. The treatment efficacy was dependent on CD8+ T cells and could be improved through blockade of PD-1/PD-L1 interactions. In vitro studies revealed that administration of Fβ2 to tumor cells resulted in a reduced proliferation and increased expression of MHC I but also PD-L1. Importantly, Fβ2 enhanced the antigen presenting capacity of dendritic cells, whilst reducing the suppressive activity of myeloid-derived suppressor cells. In conclusion, these data suggest that intratumoral delivery of mRNA encoding soluble proteins, such as Fβ2, can modulate the tumor microenvironment, leading to effective antitumor T cell responses, which can be further potentiated through combination therapy.

Concepts: Immune system, DNA, Protein, Cancer, T cell, Major histocompatibility complex, Cytotoxic T cell, MHC class I


We identified a polyclonal CD8+ T-cell response against mutant KRAS G12D in tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes obtained from a patient with metastatic colorectal cancer. We observed objective regression of all seven lung metastases after the infusion of approximately 1.11×10(11) HLA-C*08:02-restricted tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes that were composed of four different T-cell clonotypes that specifically targeted KRAS G12D. However, one of these lesions had progressed on evaluation 9 months after therapy. The lesion was resected and found to have lost the chromosome 6 haplotype encoding the HLA-C*08:02 class I major histocompatibility complex (MHC) molecule. The loss of expression of this molecule provided a direct mechanism of tumor immune evasion. Thus, the infusion of CD8+ cells targeting mutant KRAS mediated effective antitumor immunotherapy against a cancer that expressed mutant KRAS G12D and HLA-C*08:02.

Concepts: Immune system, Cancer, Metastasis, Oncology, Lung cancer, Colorectal cancer, Major histocompatibility complex, MHC class I


Major histocompatibility (MHC) class II molecules are strongly associated with many autoimmune disorders. In type 1 diabetes, the DQ8 molecule is common, confers significant disease risk and is involved in disease pathogenesis. We hypothesized blocking DQ8 antigen presentation would provide therapeutic benefit by preventing recognition of self-peptides by pathogenic T cells. We used the crystal structure of DQ8 to select drug-like small molecules predicted to bind structural pockets in the MHC antigen-binding cleft. A limited number of the predicted compounds inhibited DQ8 antigen presentation in vitro with one compound preventing insulin autoantibody production and delaying diabetes onset in an animal model of spontaneous autoimmune diabetes. An existing drug of similar structure, methyldopa, specifically blocked DQ8 in recent-onset patients with type 1 diabetes along with reducing inflammatory T cell responses toward insulin, highlighting the relevance of blocking disease-specific MHC class II antigen presentation to treat autoimmunity.

Concepts: Immune system, Diabetes mellitus, Diabetes mellitus type 1, Atom, Adaptive immune system, Major histocompatibility complex, MHC class I, Chemical compound


Contagious cancers that pass between individuals as an infectious cell line are highly unusual pathogens. Devil facial tumor disease (DFTD) is one such contagious cancer that emerged 16 y ago and is driving the Tasmanian devil to extinction. As both a pathogen and an allograft, DFTD cells should be rejected by the host-immune response, yet DFTD causes 100% mortality among infected devils with no apparent rejection of tumor cells. Why DFTD cells are not rejected has been a question of considerable confusion. Here, we show that DFTD cells do not express cell surface MHC molecules in vitro or in vivo, due to down-regulation of genes essential to the antigen-processing pathway, such as β2-microglobulin and transporters associated with antigen processing. Loss of gene expression is not due to structural mutations, but to regulatory changes including epigenetic deacetylation of histones. Consequently, MHC class I molecules can be restored to the surface of DFTD cells in vitro by using recombinant devil IFN-γ, which is associated with up-regulation of the MHC class II transactivator, a key transcription factor with deacetylase activity. Further, expression of MHC class I molecules by DFTD cells can occur in vivo during lymphocyte infiltration. These results explain why T cells do not target DFTD cells. We propose that MHC-positive or epigenetically modified DFTD cells may provide a vaccine to DFTD. In addition, we suggest that down-regulation of MHC molecules using regulatory mechanisms allows evolvability of transmissible cancers and could affect the evolutionary trajectory of DFTD.

Concepts: Immune system, DNA, Gene, Gene expression, Cancer, Major histocompatibility complex, MHC class I, Devil facial tumour disease


TCRαβ thymocytes differentiate into either CD8αβ(+) cytotoxic T lymphocytes or CD4(+) helper T cells. This functional dichotomy is controlled by key transcription factors, including the helper T cell master regulator ThPOK, which suppresses the cytolytic program in major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II-restricted CD4(+) thymocytes. ThPOK continues to repress genes of the CD8 lineage in mature CD4(+) T cells, even as they differentiate into effector helper T cell subsets. Here we found that the helper T cell fate was not fixed and that mature, antigen-stimulated CD4(+) T cells terminated expression of the gene encoding ThPOK and reactivated genes of the CD8 lineage. This unexpected plasticity resulted in the post-thymic termination of the helper T cell program and the functional differentiation of distinct MHC class II-restricted CD4(+) cytotoxic T lymphocytes.

Concepts: White blood cell, DNA, Gene, Gene expression, B cell, T cell, Major histocompatibility complex, MHC class I


BACKGROUND: Major histocompatibility complex (MHC) proteins constitute an essential component of the vertebrate immune response, and are coded by the most polymorphic of the vertebrate genes. Here, we investigated sequence variation and evolution of MHC class I and class II DRB, DQA and DQB genes in the brown bear Ursus arctos to characterise the level of polymorphism, estimate the strength of positive selection acting on them, and assess the extent of gene orthology and trans-species polymorphism in Ursidae. RESULTS: We found 37 MHC class I, 16 MHC class II DRB, four DQB and two DQA alleles. We confirmed the expression of several loci: three MHC class I, two DRB, two DQB and one DQA. MHC class I also contained two clusters of non-expressed sequences. MHC class I and DRB allele frequencies differed between northern and southern populations of the Scandinavian brown bear. The rate of nonsynonymous substitutions (dN) exceeded the rate of synonymous substitutions (dS) at putative antigen binding sites of DRB and DQB loci and, marginally significantly, at MHC class I loci. Models of codon evolution supported positive selection at DRB and MHC class I loci. Both MHC class I and MHC class II sequences showed orthology to gene clusters found in the giant panda Ailuropoda melanoleuca. CONCLUSIONS: Historical positive selection has acted on MHC class I, class II DRB and DQB, but not on the DQA locus. The signal of historical positive selection on the DRB locus was particularly strong, which may be a general feature of caniforms. The presence of MHC class I pseudogenes may indicate faster gene turnover in this class through the birth-and-death process. South–north population structure at MHC loci probably reflects origin of the populations from separate glacial refugia.

Concepts: Immune system, Gene, Genetics, Evolution, Major histocompatibility complex, MHC class I, Giant Panda, Bear


The common pathogen Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) transforms normal human B cells and can cause cancer. Latent membrane protein 2A (LMP2A) of EBV supports activation and proliferation of infected B cells and is expressed in many types of EBV-associated cancer. It is not clear how latent EBV infection and cancer escape elimination by host immunity, and it is unknown whether LMP2A can influence the interaction of EBV-infected cells with the immune system. We infected primary B cells with EBV deleted for LMP2A, and established lymphoblastoid cell lines (LCLs). We found that CD8+ T cell clones showed higher reactivity against LMP2A-deficient LCLs compared to LCLs infected with complete EBV. We identified several potential mediators of this immunomodulatory effect. In the absence of LMP2A, expression of some EBV latent antigens was elevated, and cell surface expression of MHC class I was marginally increased. LMP2A-deficient LCLs produced lower amounts of IL-10, although this did not directly affect CD8+ T cell recognition. Deletion of LMP2A led to several changes in the cell surface immunophenotype of LCLs. Specifically, the agonistic NKG2D ligands MICA and ULBP4 were increased. Blocking experiments showed that NKG2D activation contributed to LCL recognition by CD8+ T cell clones. Our results demonstrate that LMP2A reduces the reactivity of CD8+ T cells against EBV-infected cells, and we identify several relevant mechanisms.

Concepts: Immune system, Protein, Bacteria, Immunology, Adaptive immune system, Major histocompatibility complex, MHC class I, Epstein-Barr virus