Competition among peptides in melanoma vaccines for binding to MHC molecules

J Immunother. Nov-Dec 2004;27(6):425-31. doi: 10.1097/00002371-200411000-00002.


The effectiveness of peptide-based cancer vaccines depends on the ability of peptides to bind to MHC molecules on the surface of antigen-presenting cells, where they reconstitute epitopes for cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs). Multivalent vaccines have advantages over single-peptide vaccines; however, peptides may compete for binding to the same MHC molecules. In particular, it is possible that peptides with high affinity for MHC molecules prevent the binding of lower-affinity peptides. However, only small numbers of peptide/MHC complexes per cell are required for CTL recognition. Thus, the authors hypothesized that competition of peptides for MHC binding would not significantly reduce CTL recognition of individual peptides within a multiple-peptide mixture, and this hypothesis was tested by a series of experiments performed in vitro. In multiple experiments, two peptides with different affinities for HLA-A*0201 molecules were mixed at various concentrations and pulsed onto HLA-A2 cells, which were then evaluated for susceptibility to lysis by HLA-A*0201-restricted CTLs. CTL recognition of the melanoma peptides gp100(154-162) (KTWGQYWQV), gp100(280-288) (YLEPGPVTA), and tyrosinase(369-377D) (YMDGTMSQV) was maintained even when target cells were co-pulsed with equimolar concentrations of peptides with comparable or higher affinity for HLA-A2. In some cases, CTL recognition was maintained even when the higher-affinity peptide was present at concentrations several orders of magnitude higher than the target peptide. In addition, CTLs generated by in vitro stimulation with a peptide mixture developed reactivity to three different peptides, at a level comparable to that obtained by stimulation with each individual peptide separately. These data suggest that CTLs can respond to multiple peptides presented on the same antigen-presenting cells and justify further investigation, in clinical trials, of multiple-peptide cancer vaccines.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Binding, Competitive
  • Cancer Vaccines / immunology*
  • Cell Line
  • HLA-A Antigens / metabolism*
  • HLA-A2 Antigen
  • Humans
  • Melanoma / immunology*
  • Monophenol Monooxygenase / immunology
  • Peptides / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic / immunology*


  • Cancer Vaccines
  • HLA-A Antigens
  • HLA-A*02:01 antigen
  • HLA-A2 Antigen
  • Peptides
  • Monophenol Monooxygenase