Enzymatic discovery of a HER-2/neu epitope that generates cross-reactive T cells

Andrea M. Henle, Courtney L. Erskine, Linda M. Benson, Raphael Clynes, Keith L. Knutson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Patients with HER-2/neu-expressing breast cancer remain at risk for relapse following standard therapy. Vaccines targeting HER-2/neu to prevent relapse are in various phases of clinical testing. Many vaccines incorporate the HER-2/neu HLA-A2-binding peptide p369-377 (KIFGSLAFL), because it has been shown that CTLs specific for this epitope can directly kill HER-2/neu- overexpressing breast cancer cells. Thus, understanding how tumors process this epitope may be important for identifying those patients who would benefit from immunization. Proteasome preparations were used to determine if p369-377 was processed from larger HER-2/neu-derived fragments. HPLC, mass spectrometry, cytotoxicity assays, IFN-g ELISPOT, and human breast cancer cell lines were used to assess the proteolytic fragments. Processing of p369-377 was not detected by purified 20S proteasome and immunoproteasome, indicating that tumor cells may not be capable of processing this Ag from the HER-2/neu protein and presenting it in the context of HLA class I. Instead, we show that other extracellular domain HER-2/neu peptide sequences are consistently processed by the proteasomes. One of these sequences, p373-382 (SLAFLPESFD), bound HLA-A2 stronger than did p369-377. CTLs specific for p373-382 recognized both p373-382 and p369-377 complexed with HLA-A2. CTLs specific for p373-382 also killed human breast cancer cell lines at higher levels than did CTLs specific for p369-377. Conversely, CTLs specific for p369-377 recognized p373-382. Peptide p373-382 is a candidate epitope for breast cancer vaccines, as it is processed by proteasomes and binds HLA-A2.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)479-488
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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