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Glypican-3-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes induced by human leucocyte antigen-A*0201-restricted peptide effectively kill hepatocellular carcinoma cells in vitro.

OBJECTIVE: To investigate potential human leucocyte antigen (HLA)-A2-restricted epitope peptides of glypican-3 (GPC3) and determine the cytotoxicity of peptide-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) against hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) cells.

METHODS: The potential HLA-A*0201-restricted GPC3 peptides were screened using computer algorithms, T2 cell-binding affinity and stability of peptide/HLA-A*0201 complex assay. The peptide-specific CTLs were generated and their cytotoxicity against GPC3+ SMMC 7721 and HepG2 cells was detected using IFN-γ based enzyme-linked immunospot and lactate dehydrogenase release assays in vitro.

RESULTS: A total of six peptides were identified for bindings to HAL-A2 and the GPC3 522-530 and GPC3 229-237 peptides with HLA-A*0201 molecules displayed high binding affinity and stability. The CTLs induced by the GPC3 522-530 or positive control GPC3 144-152 peptide responded to the peptide by producing IFN-γ, which were abrogated by treatment with anti-HLA-A2 antibody. The GPC3 522-530-specific CTLs responded to and killed SMMC 7721 and HepG2 cells, instead of GPC3-silenced SMMC 7721 or HepG2 cells. GPC3 522-530-specific CTLs response to HCC cells was blocked by anti-HLA-A2 antibody.

CONCLUSIONS: The GPC3 522-530 peptide contains antigen-determinant and its specific CTLs can effectively kill HCC in a HLA-A2-restricted and peptide-dependent manner. Our findings suggest that this peptide may be valuable for development of therapeutic vaccine.

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