In vitro propagation of tumor-specific CTLs, to be used for identification of tumor antigens (Ag) and/or adoptive immunotherapy, is hampered by the need of large amounts of professional antigen-presenting cells (APC) used for periodical cycles of restimulation. We evaluated whether RMA T lymphoma cells, stably transfected with the cDNA encoding for the B7.1 costimulatory molecule, provided the activation signals to CD8+ T lymphocytes in the absence of professional APC and CD4+ helper cells. We demonstrate here that long-term CD8+ cell lines can be efficiently propagated in vitro by repeated cycles of stimulation with tumor cells stably expressing B7.1. Professional APC and CD4+ helper cells are not required as far as interleukin 2 is exogenously provided. Furthermore, CD8+ blasts needed both signal 1 (Ag in the contest of the MHC molecule) and signal 2 (interaction of costimulatory molecules) for restimulation. T cell blasts in the presence of signal 1 or 2 only still retained their effector potential but did not undergo clonal expansion. These results are very promising for further applications of specific immunotherapies in humans.

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The work was supported by Grant 324/95 from the Associazione Italiana Ricerca sul Cancro (to C. R.) and by Grants P.F. A.C.R.O. 9202374 PF39 (to C. R.) and P.C. 9501659 CT04 (to M. B.) from the Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche.

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