Disease-stage variance in functional CD4(+) T-cell responses against novel pan-human leukocyte antigen-D region presented human papillomavirus-16 E7 epitopes.Clin Cancer Res 2004; 10(10):3301-8CC
Given the anticipated clinical importance of helper and regulatory CD4(+) T cells reactive against human papillomavirus-16 E7 in the cervical carcinoma setting, we performed this study to identify novel E7-derived T helper (Th) epitopes and to characterize functional anti-E7 Th responses in normal donors and patients with cervical intraepithelial neoplasia I-III or cervical cancer. Candidate pan-HLA-DR (D region) binding peptides were identified and synthesized based on results obtained using a predictive computer algorithm, then applied in short-term in vitro T-cell sensitization assays. Using IFN-gamma/IL-5 (interleukin 5) enzyme-linked immunospot assays as readouts for Th1-type and Th2-type CD4(+) T-cell responses, respectively, we identified three E7-derived T helper epitopes (E7(1-12), E7(48-62), and E7(62-75)), two of which are novel. Normal donor CD4(+) T cells failed to react against these E7 peptides, whereas patients with premalignant cervical intraepithelial neoplasia I-III lesions displayed preferential Th1-type responses against all three E7 epitopes. Th1-type responses were still observed to the E7(48-62) but not to the E7(1-12) and E7(62-75) peptides in cancer patients, where these latter two epitopes evoked Th2-type responses. Notably all responders to the E7(1-12) and E7(62-75) peptides expressed the HLA-DR4 or -DR15 alleles, whereas all responders to the E7(48-62) peptide failed to express the HLA-DR4 allele. Our results are consistent with a model in which cervical cancer progression is linked to an undesirable Th1- to Th2-type shift in functional CD4(+) T cell responses to two novel E7-derived epitopes. These peptides may prove important in vaccines to promote and maintain protective Th1-type antihuman papillomavirus immunity and in the immune monitoring of treated patients harboring HPV-16(+) malignancies.