Epitopes derived from mutated cancer proteins elicit strong antitumor T-cell responses that correlate with clinical efficacy in a proportion of patients. However, it remains unclear whether the subcellular localization of mutated proteins influences the efficiency of T-cell priming. To address this question, we compared the immunogenicity of NY-ESO-1 and OVA localized either in the cytosol or in mitochondria. We showed that tumors expressing mitochondrial-localized NY-ESO-1 and OVA proteins elicit significantdly higher frequencies of antigen-specific CD8+ T cells in vivo. We also demonstrated that this stronger immune response is dependent on the mitochondrial location of the antigenic proteins, which contributes to their higher steady-state amount, compared with cytosolic localized proteins. Consistent with these findings, we showed that injection of mitochondria purified from B16 melanoma cells can protect mice from a challenge with B16 cells, but not with irrelevant tumors. Finally, we extended these findings to cancer patients by demonstrating the presence of T-cell responses specific for mutated mitochondrial-localized proteins. These findings highlight the utility of prioritizing epitopes derived from mitochondrial-localized mutated proteins as targets for cancer vaccination strategies.
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Animals, Antigens, Neoplasm, CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes, CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes, Cancer Vaccines, Cell Line, Tumor, Disease Models, Animal, Epitopes, Mice, Mice, Inbred C57BL, Mice, Knockout, Mice, Transgenic, Mitochondrial Proteins, Neoplasms