MHC class I-restricted CTLs specific for antigens expressed by malignant cells are an important component of immune responses against human cancer. Recently, in melanoma a number of melanocyte differentiation antigens have been identified as potential tumor rejection antigens. In the present study, we show that by applying peptide-loaded dendritic cells, induced by granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor and interleukin 4 from peripheral blood monocytes of healthy donors, we were able to elicit melanoma-associated antigen-specific CTL in vitro. We demonstrate the induction of CTLs directed against HLA-A2.1 presented epitopes derived from tyrosinase, gp100, and Melan A/MART-1. Apart from lysis of peptide-loaded target cells, these CTLs displayed reactivity with HLA-A2.1+ melanoma tumor cell lines and cultured normal melanocytes endogenously expressing the target antigen. These data indicate that these CTLs recognize naturally processed and presented epitopes and that precursor CTLs against melanocyte differentiation antigens are present in healthy individuals. The ability to generate tumor-specific CTLs in vitro, using granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor/interleukin 4-induced dendritic cells, illustrates the potential use of this type of antigen-presenting cells for vaccination protocols in human cancer.

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This study was supported by Grants KUN 91245 and KUN 91246 from the Dutch Cancer Society.

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