Antitumor T cells often recognize targets that are nonmutated "self" tissue differentiation Ags, but the relative impact of Ag expression by normal and transformed tissue for a human self/tumor Ag has not been studied. To examine the influence of self-tolerance mechanisms on the function of self/tumor-specific T cell responses in humans, we sought to identify an Ag that was expressed, processed, and presented in an MHC-restricted fashion by tumor cells, but for which there was the human equivalent of a "knockout." In this study, We report the first immunological characterization of a melanoma/melanocyte differentiation Ag, called OA1, which meets these criteria. This Ag, an X chromosome-encoded melanoma/melanocyte differentiation Ag, was completely deleted in a male patient. Using a newly identified HLA-A*2402-restricted epitope (LYSACFWWL) to study T cell tolerance, we found that OA1-specific T cell reactivity was more than five SD higher in the knockout patient that in normal controls. These data provide compelling evidence for T cell tolerance to OA1 in humans. Most surprisingly, we found elevated levels of OA1-specific T cells in patients with metastatic malignant melanoma, indicating that the tumor-bearing state partially reversed tolerance observed in normal (non-"knockout") individuals. Taken together, these findings indicated that tolerance can exist for self/tumor Ags in humans, and that this tolerance could be partially abrogated by the growth of the tumor, increasing the reactivity of tumor Ag-specific T cells. Thus, the tumor-bearing state reverses, in part, the tolerance of T cells that results from the normal expression of tissue differentiation Ags.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Allergy