MHC class I-restricted epitope spreading in the context of tumor rejection following vaccination with a single immunodominant CTL epitope

Eur J Immunol. 1999 Oct;29(10):3295-301. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1521-4141(199910)29:10<3295::AID-IMMU3295>3.0.CO;2-N.


Epitope spreading is a process whereby epitopes distinct from and non-cross-reactive with an inducing epitope become targets of an evolving immune response. This phenomenon has been associated most notably with the progression of naturally occurring or experimentally induced chronic autoimmune diseases. We have investigated the potential occurrence of epitope spreading in the context of antitumor cytotoxic T cell (CTL) responses using chicken ovalbumin (OVA) as a model antigen. Our results indicate that following rejection of OVA-expressing EG.7 tumor cells effectuated by a CTL response which is induced against the MHC class I-restricted immunodominant epitope OVA257-264, there occurs intramolecular diversification of the CTL response to two additional OVA-derived epitopes, OVA176-183 and OVA55-62, as well as intermolecular spreading to other endogenous tumor-derived determinants. It seems that CTL-mediated tumor cell destruction in vivo favors cross-presentation of additional epitopes with the consequent activation of additional tumor-reactive lymphocytes. The process of epitope spreading in that context has obvious important implications for the design of antigen-specific antitumor immunotherapies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cancer Vaccines / genetics
  • Cancer Vaccines / immunology*
  • Chickens
  • Epitopes, T-Lymphocyte / immunology*
  • Female
  • Graft Rejection / immunology*
  • H-2 Antigens / immunology*
  • Immunodominant Epitopes / immunology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Neoplasms, Experimental / immunology*
  • Ovalbumin / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic / immunology*


  • Cancer Vaccines
  • Epitopes, T-Lymphocyte
  • H-2 Antigens
  • Immunodominant Epitopes
  • Ovalbumin