IFNγ Modulates the Immunopeptidome of Triple Negative Breast Cancer Cells by Enhancing and Diversifying Antigen Processing and Presentation

Gabriel Goncalves, Kerry A. Mullan, Divya Duscharla, Rochelle Ayala, Nathan P. Croft, Pouya Faridi, Anthony W. Purcell

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16 Citations (Scopus)


Peptide vaccination remains a viable approach to induce T-cell mediated killing of tumors. To identify potential T-cell targets for Triple-Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC) vaccination, we examined the effect of the pro-inflammatory cytokine interferon-γ (IFNγ) on the transcriptome, proteome, and immunopeptidome of the TNBC cell line MDA-MB-231. Using high resolution mass spectrometry, we identified a total of 84,131 peptides from 9,647 source proteins presented by human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-I and HLA-II alleles. Treatment with IFNγ resulted in a remarkable remolding of the immunopeptidome, with only a 34% overlap between untreated and treated cells across the HLA-I immunopeptidome, and expression of HLA-II only detected on treated cells. IFNγ increased the overall number, diversity, and abundance of peptides contained within the immunopeptidome, as well increasing the coverage of individual source antigens. The suite of peptides displayed under conditions of IFNγ treatment included many known tumor associated antigens, with the HLA-II repertoire sampling 17 breast cancer associated antigens absent from those sampled by HLA-I molecules. Quantitative analysis of the transcriptome (10,248 transcripts) and proteome (6,783 proteins) of these cells revealed 229 common proteins and transcripts that were differentially expressed. Most of these represented downstream targets of IFNγ signaling including components of the antigen processing machinery such as tapasin and HLA molecules. However, these changes in protein expression did not explain the dramatic modulation of the immunopeptidome following IFNγ treatment. These results demonstrate the high degree of plasticity in the immunopeptidome of TNBC cells following cytokine stimulation and provide evidence that under pro-inflammatory conditions a greater variety of potential HLA-I and HLA-II vaccine targets are unveiled to the immune system. This has important implications for the development of personalized cancer vaccination strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number645770
Number of pages13
JournalFrontiers in Immunology
Publication statusPublished - 22 Apr 2021


  • cytokine stimulation
  • human leukocyte antigen
  • immunopeptidomics
  • mass spectrometry
  • proteomics
  • transcriptomics
  • triple negative breast cancer

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