In conjunction with chemotherapy, immunotherapy with dendritic cells (DCs) may eliminate minimal disease burden by generating cytotoxic T lymphocytes. Enhanced cytosolic bioavailability of tumor-specific antigens improves access to human leukocyte antigen (HLA) class I molecules for more efficient cytotoxic T lymphocyte generation. Various cell-penetrating domains (CPDs) are known to ferry covalently linked heterologous antigens to the intracellular compartment by traversing the plasma membrane.
To determine whether generating melanoma antigen family A, 3 (MAGE-A3), a tumor-specific cancer-testis antigen, as a fusion protein with CPD will enhance the cytosolic bioavailability of MAGE-A3.
MAGE-A3 was amplified by polymerase chain reaction using complementary DNA from renal tissue and cloned in frame with a CPD (YARKARRQARR) at the amino-terminal end and hexahistidine at the carboxy-terminal end to generate CPD–MAGE-A3 in a pQE-70 expression vector. Cultures were grown in Escherichia coli BL21 Star (DE3-pLysS) cells followed by nickel–nitrilotriacetic acid affinity purification of recombinant proteins.
Main Outcomes and Measures
Measurement of DC membrane penetration of CPD–MAGE-A3 vs MAGE-A3 and determination of the effect of CPD–MAGE-A3 pulsing on DC phenotypic expression of cell-surface antigens.
Media composition and isopropyl-d-thiogalactosidase induction were optimized to achieve high levels of protein expression followed by purification. Western blot analysis with MAGE-A3 antibodies recognized both MAGE-A3 and CPD–MAGE-A3 proteins, while CPD antibodies recognized only CPD–MAGE-A3. Purified CPD–MAGE-A3 exhibited more efficient DC membrane penetration than did MAGE-A3 alone as confirmed by immunofluorescence analysis. High-level expression of several unique DC markers (CD80, CD83, CD86, and HLA-DR) by flow cytometry was consistent with a mature DC phenotype, indicating that pulsing with CPD–MAGE-A3 did not alter specific cell-surface antigens required for T-cell activation.
Conclusions and Relevance
We have demonstrated for the first time, to our knowledge, that cloning and purification of MAGE-A3 with CPD enhances its cytosolic bioavailability in DCs without altering cell-surface antigens, potentially making it a more potent therapeutic cancer vaccine compared with existing MAGE-A3 protein and peptide vaccines.