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1.  Fusion of Hsp70 to Mage-a1 enhances the potency of vaccine-specific immune responses 
Heat shock proteins (HSPs) are capable of promoting antigen presentation of chaperoned peptides through interactions with receptors on antigen presenting cells. This property of HSPs suggests a potential function as an adjuvant-free carrier to stimulate immune responses against a covalently linked fusion partner. MAGE-A1 is a likely candidate for tumor immunotherapy due to its abundant immunogenic epitopes and strict tumor specificity. To analyze the influence of HSP70 conjugation to MAGE-A1, towards developing a novel effective vaccine against MAGE-expressing tumors, we cloned the murine counterpart of the human HSP70 and MAGE-A1 genes.
Recombinant proteins expressing Mage-a1 (aa 118–219), Hsp70, and Mage-a1-Hsp70 fusion were purified and used to immunize C57BL/6 mice. The humoral and cellular responses elicited against Mage-a1 were measured by ELISA, IFN-γ ELISPOT assay, and cytotoxicity assay.
Immunization of mice with Mage-a1-Hsp70 fusion protein elicited significantly higher Mage-a1-specific antibody titers than immunization with either Mage-a1 alone or a combination of Mage-a1 + Hsp70. The frequency of IFN-γ-producing cells and the cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) activity was also elevated. Consistent with the elevated immune response, immunization with fusion protein induced potent in vivo antitumor immunity against MAGE-a1-expressing tumors.
These results indicate that the fusion of Hsp70 to Mage-a1 can enhance immune responses and anti-tumor effects against Mage-a1-expressing tumors. Fusion of HSP70 to a tumor antigen may greatly enhance the potency of protein vaccines and can potentially be applied to other cancer systems with known tumor-specific antigens. These findings provide a scientific basis for the development of a novel HSP70 and MAGE fusion protein vaccine against MAGE-expressing tumors.
PMCID: PMC4029478  PMID: 24314011
Mage-a1; Heat-shock protein 70; Protein vaccine; Humoral immunity; Cytotoxic T lymphocyte
2.  Human gene MAGE-3 codes for an antigen recognized on a melanoma by autologous cytolytic T lymphocytes 
Human melanoma cell line MZ2-MEL expresses several antigens recognized by autologous cytolytic T lymphocyte (CTL) clones. We reported previously the identification of a gene, named MAGE-1, that codes for one of these antigens named MZ2-E. We show here that antigen MZ2-D, which is present on the same tumor, is encoded by another member of the MAGE gene family named MAGE-3. Like MAGE-1, MAGE-3 is composed of three exons and the large open reading frame is entirely located in the third exon. Its sequence shows 73% identity with MAGE-1. Like MZ2-E, antigen MZ2-D is presented by HLA-A1. The antigenic peptide of MZ2-D is a nonapeptide that is encoded by the sequence of MAGE-3 that is homologous to the MAGE-1 sequence coding for the MZ2-E peptide. Competition experiments using single Ala-substituted peptides indicated that amino acid residues Asp in position 3 and Tyr in position 9 were essential for binding of the MAGE-1 peptide to HLA-A1. Gene MAGE-3 is expressed in many tumors of several types, such as melanoma, head and neck squamous cell carcinoma, lung carcinoma and breast carcinoma, but not in normal tissues except for testes. It is expressed in a larger proportion of melanoma samples than MAGE-1. MAGE-3 encoded antigens may therefore have a wide applicability for specific immunotherapy of melanoma patients.
PMCID: PMC2191409  PMID: 8113684
3.  Melanoma Cells Present a MAGE-3 Epitope to CD4+ Cytotoxic T Cells in Association with Histocompatibility Leukocyte Antigen DR11  
In this study we used TEPITOPE, a new epitope prediction software, to identify sequence segments on the MAGE-3 protein with promiscuous binding to histocompatibility leukocyte antigen (HLA)-DR molecules. Synthetic peptides corresponding to the identified sequences were synthesized and used to propagate CD4+ T cells from the blood of a healthy donor. CD4+ T cells strongly recognized MAGE-3281–295 and, to a lesser extent, MAGE-3141–155 and MAGE-3146–160. Moreover, CD4+ T cells proliferated in the presence of recombinant MAGE-3 after processing and presentation by autologous antigen presenting cells, demonstrating that the MAGE-3 epitopes recognized are naturally processed. CD4+ T cells, mostly of the T helper 1 type, showed specific lytic activity against HLA-DR11/MAGE-3–positive melanoma cells. Cold target inhibition experiments demonstrated indeed that the CD4+ T cells recognized MAGE-3281–295 in association with HLA-DR11 on melanoma cells. This is the first evidence that a tumor-specific shared antigen forms CD4+ T cell epitopes. Furthermore, we validated the use of algorithms for the prediction of promiscuous CD4+ T cell epitopes, thus opening the possibility of wide application to other tumor-associated antigens. These results have direct implications for cancer immunotherapy in the design of peptide-based vaccines with tumor-specific CD4+ T cell epitopes.
PMCID: PMC2192952  PMID: 10049951
MAGE-3; CD4+ epitopes; melanoma; tumor vaccines; adoptive immunotherapy
4.  Tumor Mouse Model Confirms MAGE-A3 Cancer Immunotherapeutic As an Efficient Inducer of Long-Lasting Anti-Tumoral Responses 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(5):e94883.
MAGE-A3 is a potential target for immunotherapy due to its tumor-specific nature and expression in several tumor types. Clinical data on MAGE-A3 immunotherapy have raised many questions that can only be addressed by using animal models. In the present study, different aspects of the murine anti-tumor immune responses induced by a recombinant MAGE-A3 protein (recMAGE-A3) in combination with different immunostimulants (AS01, AS02, CpG7909 or AS15) were investigated.
Experimental Design and Results
Based on cytokine profile analyses and protection against challenge with MAGE-A3-expressing tumor, the combination recMAGE-A3+AS15 was selected for further experimental work, in particular to study the mechanisms of anti-tumor responses. By using MHC class I-, MHC class II-, perforin-, B-cell- and IFN-γ- knock-out mice and CD4+ T cell-, CD8+ T cell- and NK cell- depleted mice, we demonstrated that CD4+ T cells and NK cells are the main anti-tumor effectors, and that IFN-γ is a major effector molecule. This mouse tumor model also established the need to repeat recMAGE-A3+AS15 injections to sustain efficient anti-tumor responses. Furthermore, our results indicated that the efficacy of tumor rejection by the elicited anti-MAGE-A3 responses depends on the proportion of tumor cells expressing MAGE-A3.
The recMAGE-A3+AS15 cancer immunotherapy efficiently induced an antigen-specific, functional and long-lasting immune response able to recognize and eliminate MAGE-A3-expressing tumor cells up to several months after the last immunization in mice. The data highlighted the importance of the immunostimulant to induce a Th1-type immune response, as well as the key role played by IFN-γ, CD4+ T cells and NK cells in the anti-tumoral effect.
PMCID: PMC4022504  PMID: 24830315
5.  Prediction and analysis of HLA-A2/A24-restricted cytotoxic T-lymphocyte epitopes of the tumor antigen MAGE-n using the artificial neural networks method on NetCTL1.2 Server 
Oncology Letters  2010;1(6):1097-1100.
Cancer immunotherapy has become one of the most important therapeutic approaches to cancer in the past two decades. Tumor antigen-derived peptides have been widely used to elicit tumor-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs). Antigen-specific CTLs induced by MAGE-derived peptides have proven to be highly efficacious in the prevention and treatment of various types of tumor. MAGE-n is a new member of the MAGE gene family and has been shown to be closely associated with hepatocellular carcinoma. It is highly homologous to the MAGE-A gene subfamily, particularly to MAGE-3 (93%). MAGE-n-derived peptide QLVFGIEVV is a novel HLA-A2.1-restricted CTL epitope that induces MAGE-n-specific CTLs in vitro. Identification of these CTL epitopes may lead to clinical applications of these peptides as cancer vaccines for patients with MAGE-n+/HLA-A2+ tumors. In the present study, HLA-A/A24-restricted CTL epitopes of antigen MAGE-n were predicted using the NetCTL1.2 Server on the web, COMB >0.85. The results showed that the NetCTL1.2 Server prediction method improved prediction efficacy and accuracy. Additionally, 8 HLA-A2- and 9 HLA-A24-restricted CTL epitope candidates (nonamers) derived from the tumor antigen MAGE-n were predicted. These nonamers, following identification via experimentation, may contribute to the development of potential antigen peptide tumor vaccines.
PMCID: PMC3412462  PMID: 22870119
MAGE-n; HLA-A2/A24; cytotoxic T-lymphocyte epitope; prediction
6.  Epigenetic modulation of MAGE-A3 antigen expression in multiple myeloma following treatment with the demethylation agent 5-azacitidine and the histone deacetlyase inhibitor MGCD0103 
Cytotherapy  2010;13(5):618-628.
Background aims
Immunotherapy targeting MAGE-A3 in multiple myeloma (MM) could eradicate highly aggressive and proliferative clonal cell populations responsible for relapse. However, expression of many cancer-testis antigens, including MAGE-A3, can be heterogeneous, leading to the potential for tumor escape despite MAGE-A3-induced immunity. We hypothesized that a combination of the hypomethylating agent 5-azacitidine (5AC) and the histone deacetylase inhibitor (HDACi) MGCD0103 (MGC) could induce MAGE-A3 expression in MAGE-A3-negative MM, resulting in recognition and killing of MM cells by MAGE-A3-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL).
Gene expression analyses of MAGE-A3 expression in primary MM patient samples at diagnosis and relapse were completed to identify populations that would benefit from MAGE-A3 immunotherapy. MM cell lines were treated with 5AC and MGC. Real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and Western blotting were performed to assess MAGE-A3 RNA and protein levels, respectively. Chromium-release assays and interferon (IFN) secretion assays were employed to ascertain MAGE-A3 CTL specificity against treated targets.
Gene expression analysis revealed that MAGE-A3 is expressed in MM patients at diagnosis (25%) and at relapse (49%). We observed de novo expression of MAGE-A3 RNA and protein in MAGE-A3-negative cell lines treated with 5AC. MGC treatment alone did not induce expression but sequential 5AC/MGC treatment led to enhanced expression and augmented recognition by MAGE-A3-specific CTL, as assessed by 51Cr-release assays (P = 0.047) and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) for IFN-γ secretion (P = 0.004).
MAGE-A3 is an attractive target for immunotherapy of MM and epigenetic modulation by 5AC, and MGC can induce MAGE-A3 expression and facilitate killing by MAGE-A3-specific CTL.
PMCID: PMC3633222  PMID: 21171821
5-azacitidine; cancer-testis antigen; demethylation; epigenetics; histone deactylase inhibitor; hypomethylation; MAGE-A3; MGCD0103; multiple myeloma
7.  A nonapeptide encoded by human gene MAGE-1 is recognized on HLA-A1 by cytolytic T lymphocytes directed against tumor antigen MZ2-E 
The Journal of Experimental Medicine  1992;176(5):1453-1457.
We have reported the identification of human gene MAGE-1, which directs the expression of an antigen recognized on a melanoma by autologous cytolytic T lymphocytes (CTL). We show here that CTL directed against this antigen, which was named MZ2-E, recognize a nonapeptide encoded by the third exon of gene MAGE-1. The CTL also recognize this peptide when it is presented by mouse cells transfected with an HLA-A1 gene, confirming the association of antigen MZ2-E with the HLA-A1 molecule. Other members of the MAGE gene family do not code for the same peptide, suggesting that only MAGE-1 produces the antigen recognized by the anti- MZ2-E CTL. Our results open the possibility of immunizing HLA-A1 patients whose tumor expresses MAGE-1 either with the antigenic peptide or with autologous antigen-presenting cells pulsed with the peptide.
PMCID: PMC2119413  PMID: 1402688
8.  Disease-associated Bias in T Helper Type 1 (Th1)/Th2 CD4+ T Cell Responses Against MAGE-6 in HLA-DRB1*0401+ Patients With Renal Cell Carcinoma or Melanoma 
T helper type 1 (Th1)-type CD4+ antitumor T cell help appears critical to the induction and maintenance of antitumor cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) responses in vivo. In contrast, Th2- or Th3/Tr-type CD4+ T cell responses may subvert Th1-type cell-mediated immunity, providing a microenvironment conducive to disease progression. We have recently identified helper T cell epitopes derived from the MAGE-6 gene product; a tumor-associated antigen expressed by most melanomas and renal cell carcinomas. In this study, we have assessed whether peripheral blood CD4+ T cells from human histocompatibility leukocyte antigens (HLA)-DRβ1*0401+ patients are Th1- or Th2-biased to MAGE-6 epitopes using interferon (IFN)-γ and interleukin (IL)-5 enzyme-linked immunospot assays, respectively. Strikingly, the vast majority of patients with active disease were highly-skewed toward Th2-type responses against MAGE-6–derived epitopes, regardless of their stage (stage I versus IV) of disease, but retained Th1-type responses against Epstein-Barr virus– or influenza-derived epitopes. In marked contrast, normal donors and cancer patients with no current evidence of disease tended to exhibit either mixed Th1/Th2 or strongly Th1-polarized responses to MAGE-6 peptides, respectively. CD4+ T cell secretion of IL-10 and transforming growth factor (TGF)-β1 against MAGE-6 peptides was not observed, suggesting that specific Th3/Tr-type CD4+ subsets were not common events in these patients. Our data suggest that immunotherapeutic approaches will likely have to overcome or complement systemic Th2-dominated, tumor-reactive CD4+ T cell responses to provide optimal clinical benefit.
PMCID: PMC2193999  PMID: 12208877
melanoma; renal cell carcinoma; helper T lymphocyte; MAGE-6; epitope
9.  Exogenous loading of a tapasin-dependent peptide onto HLA-B*44:02 can be restored by acid treatment or fixation of target cells 
European journal of immunology  2012;42(6):1417-1428.
Anti-tumor CTLs recognize peptides derived from cellular proteins and presented on MHC class I. One category of peptides recognized by these CTLs is derived from proteins encoded by “cancer-germline” genes, which are specifically expressed in tumors, and therefore represent optimal targets for cancer immunotherapy. Here, we identify an antigenic peptide, which is derived from the MAGE-A1-encoded protein (160-169) and presented to CTLs by HLA-B*44:02. Although this peptide is encoded by MAGE-A1, processed endogenously and presented by tumor cells, the corresponding synthetic peptide is hardly able to sensitize target cells to CTL recognition when pulsed exogenously. Endogenous processing and presentation of this peptide is strictly dependent on the presence of tapasin, which is believed to help peptide loading by stabilizing a peptide-receptive form of HLA-B*44:02. Exogenous loading of the peptide can be dramatically improved by paraformaldehyde fixation of surface molecules or by peptide loading at acidic pH. Either strategy allows efficient exogenous loading of the peptide, presumably by generating or stabilizing a peptide-receptive, empty conformation of the HLA. Altogether, our results indicate a potential drawback of short peptide-based vaccination strategies and offer possible solutions regarding the use of problematic epitopes such as the one described here.
PMCID: PMC3766947  PMID: 22678898
Cytolytic T lymphocytes; MAGE-A1; HLA-B*4402; tumor antigen
10.  A new family of genes coding for an antigen recognized by autologous cytolytic T lymphocytes on a human melanoma 
Human melanoma MZ2-MEL expresses several distinct antigens that are recognized by autologous cytolytic T lymphocytes (CTL). Some of these antigens are encoded by genes MAGE-1, MAGE-3, and BAGE, which are expressed in a large fraction of tumors of various histological types but are silent in normal adult tissues with the exception of testis. We report here the identification of the gene coding for MZ2-F, another antigen recognized by autologous CTL on MZ2-MEL cells. This gene, which was named GAGE-1, is not related to any presently known gene. It belongs to a family of genes that are expressed in a variety of tumors but not in normal tissues, except for the testis. Antigenic peptide YRPRPRRY, which is encoded by GAGE-1, is recognized by anti-MZ2-F CTL on class I molecule HLA-Cw6. The two genes of the GAGE family that code for this peptide, namely GAGE-1 and GAGE-2, are expressed in a significant proportion of melanomas (24%), sarcomas (25%), non-small cell lung cancers (19%), head and neck tumors (19%), and bladder tumors (12%). About 50% of melanoma patients carry on their tumor at least one of the presently defined antigens encoded by the MAGE, BAGE, and GAGE genes.
PMCID: PMC2192160  PMID: 7544395
11.  Induction of antigen-specific tumor immunity by genetic and cellular vaccines against MAGE: enhanced tumor protection by coexpression of granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor and B7-1. 
Molecular Medicine  1996;2(5):545-555.
BACKGROUND: A number of tumors express antigens that are recognized by specific cytotoxic T cells. The normal host immune responses, however, are not usually sufficient to cause tumor rejection. Using appropriate immunization strategies, tumor-specific antigens may serve as targets against which tumor-destructive immune responses can be generated. MAGE-1 and MAGE-3 are two clinically relevant antigens expressed in many human melanomas and other tumors, but not in normal tissues, except testis. Here, we have investigated whether DNA and cellular vaccines against MAGE-1 and MAGE-3 can induce antigen-specific anti-tumor immunity and cause rejection of MAGE-expressing tumors. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Mice were immunized against MAGE-1 and MAGE-3 by subcutaneous injection of genetically modified embryonic fibroblasts or intramuscular injection of purified DNA. Mice were injected with lethal doses of B16 melanoma cells expressing the corresponding MAGE antigens or the unrelated protein SIV tat, and tumor development and survival were monitored. RESULTS: Intramuscular expression of MAGE-1 and MAGE-3 by plasmid DNA injection and subcutaneous immunization with syngeneic mouse embryonic fibroblasts transduced with recombinant retroviruses to express these antigens induced specific immunity against tumors expressing MAGE-1 and MAGE-3. Both CD4+ and CD8+ T cells were required for anti-tumor immunity. Coexpression of granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) or B7-1 significantly increased anti-tumor immunity in an antigen-specific manner and resulted in a considerable proportion of mice surviving lethal tumor challenge. CONCLUSIONS: Our results suggest that genetic and cellular vaccines against MAGE and other tumor antigens may be useful for the therapy of tumors expressing specific markers, and that GM-CSF and B7-1 are potent stimulators for the induction of antigen-specific tumor immunity.
PMCID: PMC2230202  PMID: 8898371
12.  A Mage3/Heat Shock Protein70 DNA Vaccine Induces both Innate and Adaptive Immune Responses for the Antitumor Activity 
Vaccine  2009;28(2):561-570.
Heat shock proteins (HSPs) are highly effective and versatile molecules in promoting anti-tumor immune responses. We tested whether a HSP-based DNA vaccine can induce effective immune response against Mage3, a cancer testis (CT) antigen frequently expressed in many human tumors, thereby controlling the Mage3-expressing tumor. The vaccine was constructed by linking human inducible HSP70 to the C-terminus of a modified Mage3 gene (sMage3) that was attached at its N-terminus with the signal leader sequence of the human RANTES for releasing the expressed fusion protein from the transduced cells. Intramuscular injection of sMage3Hsp DNA induced CD4+/CD8+ T cell and antibody responses. Vaccination with sMage3Hsp DNA was more effective in inhibiting Mage3-expressing TC-1 tumors. When we dissected the antitumor activity of CD4+ and CD8+ T cells by immunizing CD4+ and CD8+ knockout mice with sMage3Hsp DNA, we found that both CD8+ T and CD4+ T cells played a role in control of inoculated tumor, but did not constitute the whole of immune protection in the prophylactic immunization. Instead, depletion of natural killer (NK) cells led to a major loss of anti-tumor activity in the immunized mice. These results indicate that the HSP-based Mage3 DNA vaccine can more effectively inhibit tumor growth by inducing both the innate immune responses and Mage3-specific adaptive immune responses via the Hsp-associated adjuvant function.
PMCID: PMC2789186  PMID: 19835823
13.  Evolutionary History of the Cancer Immunity Antigen MAGE Gene Family 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(6):e20365.
The evolutionary mode of a multi-gene family can change over time, depending on the functional differentiation and local genomic environment of family members. In this study, we demonstrate such a change in the melanoma antigen (MAGE) gene family on the mammalian X chromosome. The MAGE gene family is composed of ten subfamilies that can be categorized into two types. Type I genes are of relatively recent origin, and they encode epitopes for human leukocyte antigen (HLA) in cancer cells. Type II genes are relatively ancient and some of their products are known to be involved in apoptosis or cell proliferation. The evolutionary history of the MAGE gene family can be divided into four phases. In phase I, a single-copy state of an ancestral gene and the evolutionarily conserved mode had lasted until the emergence of eutherian mammals. In phase II, eight subfamily ancestors, with the exception for MAGE-C and MAGE-D subfamilies, were formed via retrotransposition independently. This would coincide with a transposition burst of LINE elements at the eutherian radiation. However, MAGE-C was generated by gene duplication of MAGE-A. Phase III is characterized by extensive gene duplication within each subfamily and in particular the formation of palindromes in the MAGE-A subfamily, which occurred in an ancestor of the Catarrhini. Phase IV is characterized by the decay of a palindrome in most Catarrhini, with the exception of humans. Although the palindrome is truncated by frequent deletions in apes and Old World monkeys, it is retained in humans. Here, we argue that this human-specific retention stems from negative selection acting on MAGE-A genes encoding epitopes of cancer cells, which preserves their ability to bind to highly divergent HLA molecules. These findings are interpreted with consideration of the biological factors shaping recent human MAGE-A genes.
PMCID: PMC3112145  PMID: 21695252
14.  Identification of Two Novel HLA-A*0201-Restricted CTL Epitopes Derived from MAGE-A4 
MAGE-A antigens belong to cancer/testis (CT) antigens that are expressed in tumors but not in normal tissues except testis and placenta. MAGE-A antigens and their epitope peptides have been used in tumor immunotherapy trials. MAGE-A4 antigen is extensively expressed in various histological types of tumors, so it represents an attractive target for tumor immunotherapy. In this study, we predicted HLA-A*0201-restricted cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) epitopes of MAGE-A4, followed by peptide/HLA-A*0201 affinity and complex stability assays. Of selected four peptides (designated P1, P2, P3, and P4), P1 (MAGE-A4286-294, KVLEHVVRV) and P3 (MAGE-A4272-280, FLWGPRALA) could elicit peptide-specific CTLs both in vitro from HLA-A*0201-positive PBMCs and in HLA-A*0201/Kb transgenic mice. And the induced CTLs could lyse target cells in an HLA-A*0201-restricted fashion, demonstrating that the two peptides are HLA-A*0201-restricted CTL epitopes and could serve as targets for therapeutic antitumoral vaccination.
PMCID: PMC3042617  PMID: 21350607
15.  An immunohistochemical study of altered immunomodulatory molecule expression in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma. 
British Journal of Cancer  1997;76(7):836-844.
For the presentation of peptide antigens to cytotoxic CD8+ T lymphocytes of the immune system, the expression of human leukocyte antigen (HLA) class I molecules on the cell surface is necessary. There is increasing evidence that surface HLA class I antigen expression is altered in a variety of human tumours by either loss or down-regulation of these molecules, which may be a strategy for evasion of immunosurveillance by malignant cells. This study has examined the expression of HLA class I molecules in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) specimens by immunohistochemistry, using a wide panel of antibodies directed against allele-specific as well as monomorphic determinants of these molecules. The expression of TAP proteins, HLA-DR and the co-stimulatory molecule ICAM-1 were also studied. In addition, the expression of the tumour-associated antigens (TAA) p53 and MAGE genes was determined. Aberrant allelic expression of HLA class I antigens was detected in 17 out of 34 (50%) of the specimens stained, whereas HLA class I expression determined by W6/32 staining was found to be heterogeneous in only 2 out of 34 (6%) cases. Decreased expression of ICAM-1 was observed in 12 out of 34 (35%) tumour specimens and de novo expression of HLA-DR (HLA class II) by carcinoma cells in 13 out of 34 (38%) cases. Aberrant expression of HLA class I antigens was frequently observed in cases in which MAGE genes and p53 overexpression were detected. The altered expression of these immunomodulatory molecules in HNSCC may affect prognosis and has important implications for peptide-based immunotherapy strategies for these patients.
PMCID: PMC2228257  PMID: 9328140
16.  Expression of MAGE-1 and -3 genes and gene products in human hepatocellular carcinoma 
British Journal of Cancer  1999;81(6):1080-1087.
MAGE gene family encodes peptides recognized by autologous cytotoxic T lymphocytes in a major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class-I restricted fashion. In the present study, we have performed reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) for the genes, as well as immunohistochemical analysis and Western blotting of MAGE-1 and -3 proteins in 33 surgically resected hepatocellular carcinomas (HCCs). MAGE-1 and -3 mRNAs were constitutively expressed exclusively in 78 and 42% of HCCs respectively. On immunohistochemistry with monoclonal antibodies, 77B for MAGE-1 and 57B for MAGE-3, MAGE-1 and -3 proteins were recognized in cytoplasm of only six among 33 (18%) and two of 29 HCCs (7%) respectively. The distribution pattern was mostly focal in HCC nodules. By contrast, the Western blot analysis revealed that the MAGE-1 (46 kDa) and -3 proteins (48 kDa) were expressed in 80 and 60% of 15 HCCs examined respectively. The proteins of MAGE-1 and -3 were also expressed exclusively in HCCs regardless of the histological grading and clinical staging. Our results indicate that the detection of the genes by RT-PCR or the proteins by Western blotting is useful for differentiating early HCCs from non-cancerous lesions, and that the peptides derived from MAGE-1 and -3 proteins might be suitable targets for immunotherapy of human HCC. © 1999 Cancer Research Campaign
PMCID: PMC2362936  PMID: 10576668
tumour-rejection antigen; cancer testis antigen; immunohistochemistry; Western blotting; immunotherapy
17.  DNA Methylation Is the Primary Silencing Mechanism for a Set of Germ Line- and Tumor-Specific Genes with a CpG-Rich Promoter 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1999;19(11):7327-7335.
A subset of male germ line-specific genes, the MAGE-type genes, are activated in many human tumors, where they produce tumor-specific antigens recognized by cytolytic T lymphocytes. Previous studies on gene MAGE-A1 indicated that transcription factors regulating its expression are present in all tumor cell lines whether or not they express the gene. The analysis of two CpG sites located in the promoter showed a strong correlation between expression and demethylation. It was also shown that MAGE-A1 transcription was induced in cell cultures treated with demethylating agent 5′-aza-2′-deoxycytidine. We have now analyzed all of the CpG sites within the 5′ region of MAGE-A1 and show that for all of them, demethylation correlates with the transcription of the gene. We also show that the induction of MAGE-A1 with 5′-aza-2′-deoxycytidine is stable and that in all the cell clones it correlates with demethylation, indicating that demethylation is necessary and sufficient to produce expression. Conversely, transfection experiments with in vitro-methylated MAGE-A1 sequences indicated that heavy methylation suffices to stably repress the gene in cells containing the transcription factors required for expression. Most MAGE-type genes were found to have promoters with a high CpG content. Remarkably, although CpG-rich promoters are classically unmethylated in all normal tissues, those of MAGE-A1 and LAGE-1 were highly methylated in somatic tissues. In contrast, they were largely unmethylated in male germ cells. We conclude that MAGE-type genes belong to a unique subset of germ line-specific genes that use DNA methylation as a primary silencing mechanism.
PMCID: PMC84726  PMID: 10523621
18.  Quantitative Expression and Immunogenicity of MAGE-3 and -6 in Upper Aerodigestive Tract Cancer 
The MAGE antigens are frequently expressed cancer vaccine targets. However, quantitative analysis of MAGE expression in upper aero-digestive tract (UADT) tumor cells and its association with T cell recognition has not been performed, hindering the selection of appropriate candidates for MAGE specific immunotherapy. Using quantitative RT-PCR (QRT-PCR), we evaluated the expression of MAGE-3/6 in 65 UADT cancers, 48 normal samples from tumor matched sites and 7 HLA-A*0201+squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck (SCCHN) cell lines. Expression results were confirmed using western blot. HLA-A*0201:MAGE-3(271–279) specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes (MAGE-CTL) from SCCHN patients and healthy donors showed that MAGE-3/6 expression was highly associated with CTL recognition in vitro. Based on MAGE-3/6 expression we could identify 31 (47%) of the 65 UADT tumors which appeared to express MAGE-3/6 at levels that correlated with efficient CTL recognition. To confirm that the level of MAGE-3 expression was responsible for CTL recognition, two MAGE-3/6 mRNAhigh SCCHN cell lines, PCI-13 and PCI-30, were subjected to MAGE-3/6 specific knockdown. RNAi–transfected cells showed that MAGE expression, and MAGE-CTL recognition, were significantly reduced. Furthermore, treatment of cells expressing low MAGE-3/6 mRNA with a demethylating agent, 5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine (DAC), increased the expression of MAGE-3/6 and CTL recognition. Thus, using QRT-PCR UADT cancers frequently express MAGE-3/6 at levels sufficient for CTL recognition, supporting the use of a QRT-PCR based assay for the selection of candidates likely to respond to MAGE-3/6 immunotherapy. Demethylating agents could increase the number of patients amenable for targeting epigenetically modified tumor antigens in vaccine trials.
PMCID: PMC2757316  PMID: 19610063
MAGE; Head and neck cancer; T cells; QRT-PCR
19.  Modulation of Proteasomal Activity Required for the Generation of a Cytotoxic T Lymphocyte–defined Peptide Derived from the Tumor Antigen MAGE-3  
We have analyzed the presentation of human histocompatability leukocyte antigen-A*0201–associated tumor peptide antigen MAGE-3271–279 by melanoma cells. We show that specific cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL)-recognizing cells transfected with a minigene encoding the preprocessed fragment MAGE-3271–279 failed to recognize cells expressing the full length MAGE-3 protein. Digestion of synthetic peptides extended at the NH2 or COOH terminus of MAGE-3271–279 with purified human proteasome revealed that the generation of the COOH terminus of the antigenic peptide was impaired. Surprisingly, addition of lactacystin to purified proteasome, though partially inhibitory, resulted in the generation of the antigenic peptide. Furthermore, treatment of melanoma cells expressing the MAGE-3 protein with lactacystin resulted in efficient lysis by MAGE-3271–279–specific CTL. We therefore postulate that the generation of antigenic peptides by the proteasome in cells can be modulated by the selective inhibition of certain of its enzymatic activities.
PMCID: PMC2193049  PMID: 10075973
HLA class I molecule; antigen processing; melanoma cells; ubiquitin; mass spectrometry
20.  MAGE I Transcription Factors Regulate KAP1 and KRAB Domain Zinc Finger Transcription Factor Mediated Gene Repression 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(8):e23747.
Class I MAGE proteins (MAGE I) are normally expressed only in developing germ cells but are aberrantly expressed in many cancers. They have been shown to promote tumor survival, aggressive growth, and chemoresistance but the underlying mechanisms and MAGE I functions have not been fully elucidated. KRAB domain zinc finger transcription factors (KZNFs) are the largest group of vertebrate transcription factors and regulate neoplastic transformation, tumor suppression, cellular proliferation, and apoptosis. KZNFs bind the KAP1 protein and direct KAP1 to specific DNA sequences where it suppresses gene expression by inducing localized heterochromatin characterized by histone 3 lysine 9 trimethylation (H3me3K9). Discovery that MAGE I proteins also bind to KAP1 prompted us to investigate whether MAGE I can affect KZNF and KAP1 mediated gene regulation. We found that expression of MAGE I proteins, MAGE-A3 or MAGE-C2, relieved repression of a reporter gene by ZNF382, a KZNF with tumor suppressor activity. ChIP of MAGE I (-) HEK293T cells showed KAP1 and H3me3K9 are normally bound to the ID1 gene, a target of ZNF382, but that binding is greatly reduced in the presence of MAGE I proteins. MAGE I expression relieved KAP1 mediated ID1 repression, causing increased expression of ID1 mRNA and ID1 chromatin relaxation characterized by loss of H3me3K9. MAGE I binding to KAP1 also induced ZNF382 poly-ubiquitination and degradation, consistent with loss of ZNF382 leading to decreased KAP1 binding to ID1. In contrast, MAGE I expression caused increased KAP1 binding to Ki67, another KAP1 target gene, with increased H3me3K9 and decreased Ki67 mRNA expression. Since KZNFs are required to direct KAP1 to specific genes, these results show that MAGE I proteins can differentially regulate members of the KZNF family and KAP1 mediated gene repression.
PMCID: PMC3158099  PMID: 21876767
21.  The Production of a New MAGE-3 Peptide Presented to Cytolytic T Lymphocytes by HLA-B40 Requires the Immunoproteasome 
By stimulating human CD8+ T lymphocytes with autologous dendritic cells infected with an adenovirus encoding MAGE-3, we obtained a cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) clone that recognized a new MAGE-3 antigenic peptide, AELVHFLLL, which is presented by HLA-B40. This peptide is also encoded by MAGE-12. The CTL clone recognized MAGE-3–expressing tumor cells only when they were first treated with IFN-γ. Since this treatment is known to induce the exchange of the three catalytic subunits of the proteasome to form the immunoproteasome, this result suggested that the processing of this MAGE-3 peptide required the immunoproteasome. Transfection experiments showed that the substitution of β5i (LMP7) for β5 is necessary and sufficient for producing the peptide, whereas a mutated form of β5i (LMP7) lacking the catalytically active site was ineffective. Mass spectrometric analyses of in vitro digestions of a long precursor peptide with either proteasome type showed that the immunoproteasome produced the antigenic peptide more efficiently, whereas the standard proteasome more efficiently introduced cleavages destroying the antigenic peptide. This is the first example of a tumor-specific antigen exclusively presented by tumor cells expressing the immunoproteasome.
PMCID: PMC2193621  PMID: 11854353
β5i; proteasome; mass spectrometry; tumor; HLA-B40
22.  Rapid Induction of Tumor-specific Type 1 T Helper Cells in Metastatic Melanoma Patients by Vaccination with Mature, Cryopreserved, Peptide-loaded Monocyte-derived Dendritic Cells 
The Journal of Experimental Medicine  2002;195(10):1279-1288.
There is consensus that an optimized cancer vaccine will have to induce not only CD8+ cytotoxic but also CD4+ T helper (Th) cells, particularly interferon (IFN)-γ–producing, type 1 Th cells. The induction of strong, ex vivo detectable type 1 Th cell responses has not been reported to date. We demonstrate now that the subcutaneous injection of cryopreserved, mature, antigen-loaded, monocyte-derived dendritic cells (DCs) rapidly induces unequivocal Th1 responses (ex vivo detectable IFN-γ–producing effectors as well as proliferating precursors) both to the control antigen KLH and to major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II–restricted tumor peptides (melanoma-antigen [Mage]-3.DP4 and Mage-3.DR13) in the majority of 16 evaluable patients with metastatic melanoma. These Th1 cells recognized not only peptides, but also DCs loaded with Mage-3 protein, and in case of Mage-3DP4–specific Th1 cells IFN-γ was released even after direct recognition of viable, Mage-3–expressing HLA-DP4+ melanoma cells. The capacity of DCs to rapidly induce Th1 cells should be valuable to evaluate whether Th1 cells are instrumental in targeting human cancer and chronic infections.
PMCID: PMC2193752  PMID: 12021308
dendritic cells; vaccination; CD4+ T cells; T helper cells; tumor immunity
23.  Increased Expression of Androgen Receptor Coregulator MAGE-11 in Prostate Cancer by DNA Hypomethylation and Cyclic AMP 
Molecular cancer research : MCR  2009;7(4):523-535.
Melanoma antigen gene protein-A11 (MAGE-11) of the MAGE family of cancer-germline antigens increases androgen receptor (AR) transcriptional activity through its interaction with the AR NH2-terminal FXXLF motif. The present study investigated the regulatory mechanisms that control MAGE-11 expression during androgen deprivation therapy and prostate cancer progression. Studies include the CWR22 xenograft model of human prostate cancer, clinical specimens of benign and malignant prostate, and prostate cancer cell lines. MAGE-11 mRNA levels increased 100 to 1500 fold during androgen deprivation therapy and prostate cancer progression, with highest levels in the castration-recurrent CWR22 xenograft and clinical specimens of castration-recurrent prostate cancer. Pyrosequencing of genomic DNA from prostate cancer specimens and cell lines indicated the increase in MAGE-11 resulted from DNA hypomethylation of a CpG island in the 5´ promoter of the MAGE-11 gene. Sodium bisulfite sequencing of genomic DNA from benign and malignant prostate tumors and prostate cancer cell lines revealed DNA hypomethylation at individual CpG sites at the transcription start site were most critical for MAGE-11 expression. Cyclic AMP also increased MAGE-11 expression and AR transcriptional activity in prostate cancer cell lines. However, cyclic AMP did not alter DNA methylation of the promoter and its effects were inhibited by extensive DNA methylation in the MAGE-11 promoter region. Increased expression of the AR coregulator MAGE-11 through promoter DNA hypomethylation and cyclic AMP provides a novel mechanism for increased AR signaling in castration-recurrent prostate cancer.
PMCID: PMC2670465  PMID: 19372581
androgen receptor; prostate cancer; MAGE-11; DNA methylation; cancer-germline antigens
24.  MAGE-A1 interacts with adaptor SKIP and the deacetylase HDAC1 to repress transcription 
Nucleic Acids Research  2004;32(14):4340-4350.
MAGE-A1 belongs to a family of 12 genes that are active in various types of tumors and silent in normal tissues except in male germ-line cells. The MAGE-encoded antigens recognized by T cells are highly tumor-specific targets for T cell-oriented cancer immunotherapy. The function of MAGE-A1 is currently unknown. To analyze it, we attempted to identify protein partners of MAGE-A1. Using yeast two-hybrid screening, we detected an interaction between MAGE-A1 and Ski Interacting Protein (SKIP). SKIP is a transcriptional regulator that connects DNA-binding proteins to proteins that either activate or repress transcription. We show that MAGE-A1 inhibits the activity of a SKIP-interacting transactivator, namely the intracellular part of Notch1. Deletion analysis indicated that this inhibition requires the binding of MAGE-A1 to SKIP. Moreover, MAGE-A1 was found to actively repress transcription by binding and recruiting histone deacetylase 1 (HDAC1). Our results indicate that by binding to SKIP and by recruiting HDACs, MAGE-A1 can act as a potent transcriptional repressor. MAGE-A1 could therefore participate in the setting of specific gene expression patterns for tumor cell growth or spermatogenesis.
PMCID: PMC514365  PMID: 15316101
25.  Vaccination of metastatic melanoma patients with autologous dendritic cell (DC) derived-exosomes: results of thefirst phase I clinical trial 
DC derived-exosomes are nanomeric vesicles harboring functional MHC/peptide complexes capable of promoting T cell immune responses and tumor rejection. Here we report the feasability and safety of the first Phase I clinical trial using autologous exosomes pulsed with MAGE 3 peptides for the immunization of stage III/IV melanoma patients. Secondary endpoints were the monitoring of T cell responses and the clinical outcome.
Patients and methods
Exosomes were purified from day 7 autologous monocyte derived-DC cultures. Fifteen patients fullfilling the inclusion criteria (stage IIIB and IV, HLA-A1+, or -B35+ and HLA-DPO4+ leukocyte phenotype, tumor expressing MAGE3 antigen) were enrolled from 2000 to 2002 and received four exosome vaccinations. Two dose levels of either MHC class II molecules (0.13 versus 0.40 × 1014 molecules) or peptides (10 versus 100 μg/ml) were tested. Evaluations were performed before and 2 weeks after immunization. A continuation treatment was performed in 4 cases of non progression.
The GMP process allowed to harvest about 5 × 1014 exosomal MHC class II molecules allowing inclusion of all 15 patients. There was no grade II toxicity and the maximal tolerated dose was not achieved. One patient exhibited a partial response according to the RECIST criteria. This HLA-B35+/A2+ patient vaccinated with A1/B35 defined CTL epitopes developed halo of depigmentation around naevi, a MART1-specific HLA-A2 restricted T cell response in the tumor bed associated with progressive loss of HLA-A2 and HLA-BC molecules on tumor cells during therapy with exosomes. In addition, one minor, two stable and one mixed responses were observed in skin and lymph node sites. MAGE3 specific CD4+ and CD8+ T cell responses could not be detected in peripheral blood.
The first exosome Phase I trial highlighted the feasibility of large scale exosome production and the safety of exosome administration.
PMCID: PMC554765  PMID: 15740633
exosomes; dendritic cells; phase I trial; cancer vaccine; immunotherapy

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