Background: Antigen-specific anti-tumor vaccines have demonstrated clinical efficacy, but immunological and clinical responses appear to be patient-dependent. We hypothesized that naturally-occurring differences in amino acid sequence of a host's target antigen might predict for immunological outcome from genetic vaccination by presentation of epitopes different from the vaccine.
Methods: Using peripheral blood cells from 33 patients who had been treated with a DNA vaccine encoding prostatic acid phosphatase (PAP), we sequenced the exons encoding PAP and PSA genes from somatic DNA to identify single nucleotide polymorphisms. In addition, mRNA was collected to detect alternative splice variants of PAP.
Results: We detected four synonymous coding mutations of PAP among 33 patients; non-synonymous coding mutations were not identified. Alternative splice variants of PAP were detected in 22/27 patients tested. The presence of detectable splice variants was not predictive of immunological outcome from vaccination. Immune responses to peptides encoded by these splice variants were common (16/27) prior to immunization, but not associated with immune responses elicited with vaccination.
Conclusions: These results suggest that antigen-specific immune responses detectable after treatment with this genetic vaccine are specific for the host-encoded antigen and not due to epitope differences between the vaccine and a particular individual's somatic coding sequence.
Keywords: Allelic variants; Alternative splice variants; DNA vaccines; PAP.