Generating CTLs against the subdominant Epstein-Barr virus LMP1 antigen for the adoptive immunotherapy of EBV-associated malignancies

Stephen Gottschalk, Oliver L Edwards, Uluhan Sili, M Helen Huls, Tatiana Goltsova, Alan R Davis, Helen E Heslop, Cliona M Rooney
Blood 2003 March 1, 101 (5): 1905-12
The Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)-encoded LMP1 protein is expressed in EBV-positive Hodgkin disease and is a potential target for cytotoxic T-lymphocyte (CTL) therapy. However, the LMP1-specific CTL frequency is low, and so far the generation of LMP1-specific CTLs has required T-cell cloning. The toxicity of LMP1 has prevented the use of dendritic cells (DCs) for CTL stimulation, and we reasoned that an inactive, nontoxic LMP1 mutant (DeltaLMP1) could be expressed in DCs and would enable the activation and expansion of polyclonal LMP1-specific CTLs. Recombinant adenoviral vectors expressing LMP1 or DeltaLMP1 were tested for their ability to transduce DCs. LMP1 expression was toxic within 48 hours whereas high levels of DeltaLMP1 expression were achieved with minimal toxicity. DeltaLMP1-expressing DCs were able to reactivate and expand LMP1-specific CTLs from 3 healthy EBV-seropositive donors. LMP1-specific T cells were detected by interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) enzyme-linked immunospot assay (ELISPOT) assays using the HLA-A2-restricted LMP1 peptide, YLQQNWWTL (YLQ). YLQ-specific T cells were undetectable (less than 0.001%) in donor peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs); however, after stimulation the frequency increased to 0.5% to 3.8%. Lysis of autologous target cells by CTLs was dependent on the level of LMP1 expression. In contrast, the frequency of YLQ-specific CTLs in EBV-specific CTLs reactivated and expanded using lymphoblastoid cell lines was low and no LMP1-specific cytotoxic activity was observed. Thus, DeltaLMP1 expression in DCs is nontoxic and enables the generation of LMP1-specific CTLs for future adoptive immunotherapy protocols for patients with LMP1-positive malignancies such as EBV-positive Hodgkin disease. Targeting LMP1 in these malignancies may improve the efficacy of current adoptive immunotherapy approaches.

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