Endogenous peptides bound to the constitutively expressed MHC class II molecules HLA-DR and HLA-DQ of the melanoma cell line FM3 were examined. By a combination of analytical methods (narrow bore and capillary reversed-phase high-performance liquid chromatography with subsequent spotting on polyvinylidene difluoride membranes, matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization mass spectrometry, and Edman microsequencing), we were able to isolate and identify a panel of HLA-DR4/2 (HLA-DRB1*0401/0201/DRB5*0101)-associated self-peptides from the melanoma cell line FM3. Among ubiquitously HLA-DR-associated peptides such as peptides from the class II-associated invariant chain peptide region of the invariant chain, HLA-class I, the transferrin receptor, and the IFN-γ receptor, we identified several potential tumor-associated antigens stemming from the MHC class I-restricted tumor antigen gp100, the Ca2+-binding protein annexin II, and proteins from the hsp70 family. Chinese hamster ovary cells cotransfected with HLA-DRA, DRB1*0401, and CD80 genes were shown specifically to prime T lymphocytes from HLA-DRB1*0401 donors to the annexin II and gp100 peptides. These results demonstrate that MHC class II molecules expressed by melanoma cells potentially present a variety of novel antigens to the immune system, some of which could be exploited for immunotherapy.


Supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft Grants SFB 120 (to T. H. and H. K.) and PA 361-5/1 (to G. P.), the Danish Cancer Society Grant 96-20452, the Danish Foundation for Cancer Research, and the Novo Nordisk Foundation (to A. F. K. and J. Z.).

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