Priority Research Papers:

An inducible transgenic mouse breast cancer model for the analysis of tumor antigen specific CD8+ T-cell responses

Michael Bruns, Jara Wanger, Olaf Utermöhlen and Wolfgang Deppert _

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Oncotarget. 2015; 6:38487-38503. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.5750

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Michael Bruns1, Jara Wanger1,4, Olaf Utermöhlen2, Wolfgang Deppert1,3

1Heinrich-Pette-Institute, Leibniz-Institute for Experimental Virology, Hamburg, Germany

2Institute for Medical Microbiology, Immunology and Hygiene, Medical Center and Center for Molecular Medicine Cologne (CMMC), University of Cologne, Cologne, Germany

3Institute for Tumor Biology, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE), University of Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany

4Present Address: Woldsenweg 7, 20249, Hamburg, Germany

Correspondence to:

Wolfgang Deppert, e-mail: [email protected]

Keywords: transgenic breast cancer mouse model, SV40 T-antigen, LCMV NP-epitope, CTL response, differential immune reactivity

Received: August 11, 2015     Accepted: October 06, 2015     Published: October 19, 2015


In Simian virus 40 (SV40) transgenic BALB/c WAP-T mice tumor development and progression is driven by SV40 tumor antigens encoded by inducible transgenes. WAP-T mice constitute a well characterized mouse model for breast cancer with strong similarities to the corresponding human disease. BALB/c mice mount only a weak cellular immune response against SV40 T-antigen (T-Ag). For studying tumor antigen specific CD8+ T-cell responses against transgene expressing cells, we created WAP-TNP mice, in which the transgene additionally codes for the NP118–126-epitope contained within the nucleoprotein of lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV), the immune-dominant T-cell epitope in BALB/c mice. We then investigated in WAP-TNP mice the immune responses against SV40 tumor antigens and the NP-epitope within the chimeric T-Ag/NP protein (T-AgNP). Analysis of the immune-reactivity against T-Ag in WAP-T and of T-AgNP in WAP-TNP mice revealed that, in contrast to wild type (wt) BALB/c mice, WAP-T and WAP-TNP mice were non-reactive against T-Ag. However, like wtBALB/c mice, WAP-T as well as WAP-TNP mice were highly reactive against the immune-dominant LCMV NP-epitope, thereby allowing the analysis of NP-epitope specific cellular immune responses in WAP-TNP mice. LCMV infection of WAP-TNP mice induced a strong, LCMV NP-epitope specific CD8+ T-cell response, which was able to specifically eliminate T-AgNP expressing mammary epithelial cells both prior to tumor formation (i.e. in cells of lactating mammary glands), as well as in invasive tumors. Elimination of tumor cells, however, was only transient, even after repeated LCMV infections. Further studies showed that already non-infected WAP-TNP tumor mice contained LCMV NP-epitope specific CD8+ T-cells, albeit with strongly reduced, though measurable activity. Functional impairment of these ‘endogenous’ NP-epitope specific T-cells seems to be caused by expression of the programmed death-1 protein (PD1), as anti-PD1 treatment of splenocytes from WAP-TNP tumor mice restored their activity. These characteristics are similar to those found in many tumor patients and render WAP-TNP mice a suitable model for analyzing parameters to overcome the blockade of immune checkpoints in tumor patients.

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