Development of a murine mutant Ras CD8+ CTL peptide epitope variant that possesses enhanced MHC class I binding and immunogenic properties.J Immunol 1998; 160(5):2433-41JI
We recently identified a murine mutant Ras p21 CD8+ CTL epitope reflecting residues 4 to 12, containing the mutation of Gly to Val at codon 12, that bound weakly to H-2Kd in vitro and generated a weak primary CTL response in immunized BALB/c mice. Here, we explored the hypothesis that specific modifications to the Ras4-12 peptide sequence can improve MHC binding, leading to enhanced immunogenicity without altering immune specificity. We synthesized Ras4-12 peptides in which Val at residue 12 was replaced with the more dominant H-2Kd C-terminus anchor residue Leu or Ile. In functional H-2Kd binding assays, Ras4-12(L12 or I12) peptide variants competed more effectively than the Ras4-12(V12) peptide. Ras4-12(L12 or I12) peptide variants enhanced both in vitro cytotoxicity and proliferation responses of anti-Ras4-12 CTL compared with the mutant Ras4-12(V12) peptide. Additionally, the Ras4-12(L12) peptide variant induced a quantitatively greater T cell response in vivo compared with that produced by Ras4-12(V12) as determined by IFN-gamma production. Mice immunized with Ras4-12(L12) peptide elicited CD8+ CTL activity specific for target cells presenting the Ras4-12(V12) epitope exogenously and endogenously. Moreover, both anti-Ras4-12(V12)-derived and anti-Ras4-12(L12)-derived CTL lines were similar insofar as their TCR usage and amino acid contact residues in the Ras4-12(V12) peptide. These experiments demonstrate that modifications can be introduced in tumor-specific peptide epitopes to enhance both in vitro and in vivo immunogenicity. The design of oncogene-specific peptide epitope variants as immunogens may accelerate the generation of anti-tumor T cell responses for cancer immunotherapy.