Involvement of nonclassical MHC class Ib molecules in heat shock protein-mediated anti-tumor responses



Nonclassical MHC class Ib (class Ib) genes are found in all jawed vertebrates, and their products are hypothesized to be indicators of intracellular stress and malignancy. They may be involved in immune recognition of classical MHC class Ia (class Ia)-low or -negative tumor cells through their interaction with T cell receptors and/or non-T cell inhibitory or triggering receptors expressed by NK cells and T cells. In the frog Xenopus, the molecular chaperone gp96 mediates a potent immune response involving antigen-specific classical class Ia-unrestricted CD8+ CTL (CCU-CTL) against a transplantable thymic tumor (15/0) that does not express class Ia molecules. We hypothesized that Xenopus nonclassical class Ib gene products (XNC) are involved in gp96-mediated CCU-CTL anti-tumor responses. To investigate the involvement of class Ib gene products in Xenopus anti-tumor responses, we generated, for the first time in ectothermic vertebrates, stable tumor transfectants expressing short hairpin RNA (shRNA) to silence either XNC directly or β2m to prevent class Ib surface expression. Both types of 15/0 transfectants are more resistant to CCU-CTL killing, more tumorigenic and more susceptible to NK-like cell killing. This study provides in vitro and in vivo evidence of the evolutionary conservation of class Ib involvement in anti-tumor CD8+ T cell responses.