CTL can play an important role in the defense against tumors. Protective CTL-mediated immunity can be established in animal tumor models after vaccination with synthetic peptides representing CTL epitopes. We now report that immunization with synthetic peptides can also lead to CTL tolerance associated with the inability to reject tumors. B6 tumor cells transformed by the human adenovirus early region 1 (Ad5E1) present an Ad5E1A- and an Ad5E1B-encoded CTL epitope to the immune system. CTL clones directed against either of these epitopes are able to eradicate established Ad5E1-induced tumors, showing that these CTL epitopes are targets of CTL that can mediate tumor regression. Here, we show that protective immunity against Ad5E1-expressing tumor cells can be established by immunization with Ad5E1-transformed cells and with an adenovirus vector containing the Ad5E1 region. Protective immunity, in either case, is associated with specific CTL memory. To test whether vaccination with synthetic peptides leads to protection against Ad5E1-expressing tumor cells, we vaccinated mice s.c. with a low dose of the Ad5E1B peptide. This peptide was chosen because the CTL response against the Ad5E1B-encoded CTL epitope contributes most to the antitumor response in B6 mice after vaccination with Ad5E1-transformed cells. Ad5E1B peptide-vaccinated mice were not protected against the outgrowth of Ad5E1-expressing tumor cells, but instead were no longer able to reject a tumor inoculum that was rejected by nonvaccinated mice. Moreover, the protection induced by tumor cell vaccination against Ad5E1B-expressing tumors was gone when the Ad5E1B-encoded CTL epitope was injected a few days before tumor challenge. This is associated with peptide-induced tolerance of Ad5E1B-specific CTL activity. These findings are relevant for the design of therapeutic approaches against both malignancies and T cell-mediated autoimmune diseases.

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