Human carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA is a well-characterized oncofetal glycoprotein whose overexpression by human carcinomas has been a target for cancer immunotherapy, Transgenic mice that express CEA as a self-antigen with a tissue distribution similar to that of humans have been developed. This study investigates: (a) the responsiveness of the CEA transgenic (CEA.Tg) mice to endogenous CEA or CEA administered as a whole protein in adjuvant; and (b) whether the presentation of CEA as a recombinant vaccinia virus could generate CEA-specific host immunity. By and large, the CEA.Tg mice were unresponsive to CEA, as shown by the lack of detectable CEA-specific serum antibodies and the inability to prime an in vitro splenic T-cell response to CEA. Furthermore, the administration of whole CEA protein in adjuvant to CEA.Tg mice failed to elicit either anti-CEA Ige titers or CEA-specific T-cell responses. Only weak anti-CEA IgM antibody titers a ere round in those mice. In contrast, CEA.Tg mice immunized with recombinant vaccinia virus expressing CEA generated relatively strong anti-CEA Ige antibody titers and demonstrated evidence of immunoglobulin class switching, These mice also developed T(H)1-type CEA-specific CD4(+) responses and CEA peptide-specific cytotoxicity. The ability to generate CEA-specific host immunity correlated with protection of the CEA,Tg mice against a challenge with CEA-expressing tumor cells, Protection against tumor growth was accomplished with no apparent immune response directed at CEA-positive normal tissues. The results demonstrate the ability to generate an effective antitumor immune response to a tumor self-antigen by immunization with a recombinant vaccinia virus. CEA,Tg mice should be an excellent experimental model to study the effects of more aggressive immunization schemes directed at established tumors with the possible development of accompanying autoimmune responses involving normal tissues.
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