We have observed that malignant melanoma cells produce a soluble protein factor(s), which down-regulates melanocyte lineage Melan-A/MART-1 Ag expression by melanoma cells with concomitant loss of recognition by Melan-A/MART-1-specific T cells. This down-modulation of Melan-A/MART-1 expression, which we refer to as "Ag silencing," is mediated via its minimal promoter, whereas the promoter for the restricting Ag-presenting HLA-A2 molecule is not affected. Significantly, this Ag silencing is reversible, as removal of factor-containing supernatants from Melan-A/MART-1-expressing cells results in up-regulation of the promoter for the gene encoding this Ag, and renewed expression of the protein. We have evaluated over 20 known factors, none of which accounts for the Ag-silencing activity of the melanoma cell culture supernatants. The existence of this autocrine pathway provides an additional novel explanation for melanoma tumor progression in vivo in the presence of CTL specific for this melanocyte lineage Ag. These observations may have important implications for Melan-A/MART-1-specific CTL-mediated immunotherapy of melanoma tumors.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Allergy