Identification of tumor-associated antigens (TAA) has resulted in the development of therapeutic vaccines for the treatment of cancer. We applied an integrated functional genomics approach to identify TAA in malignant tissues of patients with renal cell carcinoma (RCC). A comparative DNA chip analysis of tumor and the corresponding non-malignant tissue from patients with RCC followed by sequencing of peptides bound to the HLA-class I molecules by mass spectrometry was applied to identify novel TAA in RCC. To confirm the immunogenicity of identified epitopes cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL) were generated using dendritic cells (DC). Utilizing this approach, two peptides derived from RGS5 binding to either HLA-A*02 or 03 were identified. The key function of regulators of G protein-signalling (RGS) is to bind to G protein α subunits and to stimulate their intrinsic GTPase activity. The hydrolysis of guanosine triphosphate (GTP) to guanosine diphosphate (GDP) thereby is accelerated and the inactive heterotrimer more rapidly restored. Thus, RGS proteins inhibit the biological activity of G proteins. Interestingly, it was recently shown that RGS5 is overexpressed in pericytes of newly developing tumor vessels, indicating that RGS5 plays an important role during tumor angiogenesis.

Using RT-PCR analysis we found that RGS5 is expressed on a broad variety of tumor cells including RCC, colorectal, breast and ovarian cancer, malignant melanoma and multiple myeloma as well as in acute and chronic leukemias making this protein an interesting candidate for the development of vaccination strategies to target the tumor cells and the tumor vessels. CTL that were induced using the RGS5 peptides lysed autologous DC pulsed with the cognate peptide or transfected with in vitro transcribed RGS5 RNA as well as HLA-matched tumor cell lines. The specificity and HLA restriction was confirmed using blocking monoclonal antibodies and in cold-target inhibition assays. We next utilized DC transfected with RGS5 RNA to generate specific CTL. Using this approach we confirmed the processing and presentation of the identified peptides by malignant cells. These CTL lysed tumor cells in an antigen specific manner while sparing non-malignant cells. To analyze the induction of RGS5 specific CTL in an autologous setting in patients with malignant diseases, we used blood samples from a patient with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) in complete remission after chemotherapy and were able to generate specific CTL capable of recognizing autologous AML blasts while sparing non-malignant cells.

Our results demonstrate that RGS5 is a novel tumor rejection antigen expressed in a wide range of malignancies that can be applied to target malignant cells and tumor angiogenesis.

Disclosure: No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.

Author notes


Corresponding author