The expression of mouse gene P1A in testis does not prevent safe induction of cytolytic T cells against a P1A-encoded tumor antigen.
Uyttenhove C., Godfraind C., Lethé B., Amar-Costesec A., Renauld JC., Gajewski TF., Duffour MT., Warnier G., Boon T., Van den Eynde BJ.
Tumor antigen P815AB is recognized by cytolytic T lymphocytes (CTL) on mouse mastocytoma P815. This antigen is encoded by P1A, a gene activated in several tumors but silent in normal tissues except for testis and placenta. Notwithstanding the expression of P1A in testis, we found that male mice mounted P815AB-specific CTL responses as efficiently as females. The responding males remained fertile and no autoimmune lesions were observed in their testes. By immunohistochemistry with a rabbit antiserum directed against the P1A protein, we identified spermatogonia as the testicular cells expressing P1A. The absence of MHC class-I molecules on spermatogonia could be one of the mechanisms of protection against testicular autoimmunity, as the antigenic peptide should not be displayed at the cell surface. Human genes MAGE, BAGE and GAGE, which also code for tumor antigens recognized by autologous CTL, are not expressed in normal tissues other than testis. The results obtained in mice with antigen P815AB suggest that immunization of human males with such antigens will not generate autoimmune side-effects. Although P1A is strongly expressed in placenta, we also found that gestation did not prevent generation of CTL responses against antigen P815AB, and that such CTL responses did not affect gestation outcome. We identified labyrinthine trophoblasts as the placental cells expressing P1A. Again, the absence of MHC class-I molecules on these cells provides a plausible explanation for placental protection, although other mechanisms may also play a role.