Atypical acute myeloid leukemia-specific transcripts generate shared and immunogenic MHC class-I-associated epitopes

Immunity. 2021 Apr 13;54(4):737-752.e10. doi: 10.1016/j.immuni.2021.03.001. Epub 2021 Mar 18.


Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) has not benefited from innovative immunotherapies, mainly because of the lack of actionable immune targets. Using an original proteogenomic approach, we analyzed the major histocompatibility complex class I (MHC class I)-associated immunopeptidome of 19 primary AML samples and identified 58 tumor-specific antigens (TSAs). These TSAs bore no mutations and derived mainly (86%) from supposedly non-coding genomic regions. Two AML-specific aberrations were instrumental in the biogenesis of TSAs, intron retention, and epigenetic changes. Indeed, 48% of TSAs resulted from intron retention and translation, and their RNA expression correlated with mutations of epigenetic modifiers (e.g., DNMT3A). AML TSA-coding transcripts were highly shared among patients and were expressed in both blasts and leukemic stem cells. In AML patients, the predicted number of TSAs correlated with spontaneous expansion of cognate T cell receptor clonotypes, accumulation of activated cytotoxic T cells, immunoediting, and improved survival. These TSAs represent attractive targets for AML immunotherapy.

Keywords: CD8 T cell; acute myeloid leukemia; antigen; antigen discovery; cancer immunotherapy; immunopeptidome; intron; major histocompatibility complex; mass spectrometry; non-canonical translation; tumor-specific.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, Neoplasm / genetics
  • Antigens, Neoplasm / immunology
  • Cell Line
  • Epigenesis, Genetic / genetics
  • Epigenesis, Genetic / immunology
  • Epitopes / genetics*
  • Epitopes / immunology
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I / genetics*
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy / methods
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute / genetics*
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute / immunology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred NOD
  • Mice, SCID
  • Mutation / genetics
  • Mutation / immunology
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / immunology
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / genetics
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic / immunology


  • Antigens, Neoplasm
  • Epitopes
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell