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1.  Design of an Optimized Wilms' Tumor 1 (WT1) mRNA Construct for Enhanced WT1 Expression and Improved Immunogenicity In Vitro and In Vivo 
Tumor antigen–encoding mRNA for dendritic cell (DC)-based vaccination has gained increasing popularity in recent years. Within this context, two main strategies have entered the clinical trial stage: the use of mRNA for ex vivo antigen loading of DCs and the direct application of mRNA as a source of antigen for DCs in vivo. DCs transfected with mRNA-encoding Wilms' tumor 1 (WT1) protein have shown promising clinical results. Using a stepwise approach, we re-engineered a WT1 cDNA-carrying transcription vector to improve the translational characteristics and immunogenicity of the transcribed mRNA. Different modifications were performed: (i) the WT1 sequence was flanked by the lysosomal targeting sequence of dendritic cell lysosomal-associated membrane protein to enhance cytoplasmic expression; (ii) the nuclear localization sequence (NLS) of WT1 was deleted to promote shuttling from the nucleus to the cytoplasm; (iii) the WT1 DNA sequence was optimized in silico to improve translational efficiency; and (iv) this WT1 sequence was cloned into an optimized RNA transcription vector. DCs electroporated with this optimized mRNA showed an improved ability to stimulate WT1-specific T-cell immunity. Furthermore, in a murine model, we were able to show the safety, immunogenicity, and therapeutic activity of this optimized mRNA. This work is relevant for the future development of improved mRNA-based vaccine strategies K.
doi:10.1038/mtna.2013.54
PMCID: PMC3889186  PMID: 24253259
2.  Characterization of CD8+ T-Cell Responses in the Peripheral Blood and Skin Injection Sites of Melanoma Patients Treated with mRNA Electroporated Autologous Dendritic Cells (TriMixDC-MEL) 
BioMed Research International  2013;2013:976383.
Treatment of melanoma patients with mRNA electroporated dendritic cells (TriMixDC-MEL) stimulates T-cell responses against the presented tumor-associated antigens (TAAs). In the current clinical trials, melanoma patients with systemic metastases are treated, requiring priming and/or expansion of preexisting TAA-specific T cells that are able to migrate to both the skin and internal organs. We monitored the presence of TAA-specific CD8+ T cells infiltrating the skin at sites of intradermal TriMixDC-MEL injection (SKILs) and within the circulation of melanoma patients treated in two clinical trials. In 10 out of fourteen (71%) patients screened, CD8+ T cells recognizing any of the four TAA presented by TriMixDC-MEL cellular vaccine were found in both compartments. In total, 30 TAA-specific T-cell responses were detected among the SKILs and 29 among peripheral blood T cells, of which 24 in common. A detailed characterization of the antigen specificity of CD8+ T-cell populations in four patients indicates that the majority of the epitopes detected were only recognized by CD8+ T cells derived from either skin biopsies or peripheral blood, indicating that some compartmentalization occurs after TriMix-DC therapy. To conclude, functional TAA-specific CD8+ T cells distribute both to the skin and peripheral blood of patients after TriMixDC-MEL therapy.
doi:10.1155/2013/976383
PMCID: PMC3581259  PMID: 23509826
3.  Identification of MAGE-3 Epitopes Presented by HLA-DR Molecules to CD4+ T Lymphocytes  
MAGE-type genes are expressed by many tumors of different histological types and not by normal cells, except for male germline cells, which do not express major histocompatibility complex (MHC) molecules. Therefore, the antigens encoded by MAGE-type genes are strictly tumor specific and common to many tumors. We describe here the identification of the first MAGE-encoded epitopes presented by histocompatibility leukocyte antigen (HLA) class II molecules to CD4+ T lymphocytes. Monocyte-derived dendritic cells were loaded with a MAGE-3 recombinant protein and used to stimulate autologous CD4+ T cells. We isolated CD4+ T cell clones that recognized two different MAGE-3 epitopes, MAGE-3114–127 and MAGE-3121–134, both presented by the HLA-DR13 molecule, which is expressed in 20% of Caucasians. The second epitope is also encoded by MAGE-1, -2, and -6. Our procedure should be applicable to other proteins for the identification of new tumor-specific antigens presented by HLA class II molecules. The knowledge of such antigens will be useful for evaluation of the immune response of cancer patients immunized with proteins or with recombinant viruses carrying entire genes coding for tumor antigens. The use of antigenic peptides presented by class II in addition to peptides presented by class I may also improve the efficacy of therapeutic antitumor vaccination.
PMCID: PMC2192951  PMID: 10049940
human; invariant chain; peptide; tumor; histocompatibility leukocyte antigen class II

Results 1-3 (3)