Autochthonous liver tumors induce systemic T cell tolerance associated with T cell receptor down-modulation


  • Potential conflict of interest: Nothing to report.


The reason the adaptive immune system fails in advanced liver tumors is largely unclear. To address this question, we have developed a novel murine model that combines c-myc–induced autochthonous tumorigenesis with expression of a cognate antigen, ovalbumin (OVA). When c-myc/OVA transgenic mice were crossed with liver-specific inducer mice, multifocal hepatocellular carcinomas co-expressing OVA developed in a tetracycline-dependent manner with a short latency and 100% penetrance. Transferred OVA-specific T cells, although infiltrating the tumor at high numbers, were hyporesponsive, as evidenced by a lack of in vivo cytotoxicity and interferon gamma production. This allowed the tumor to progress even in the presence of large numbers of antigen-specific T cells and even after vaccination (OVA+CpG-DNA). Interestingly, T cell receptor down-modulation was observed, which may explain antigen-specific hyporesponsiveness. This model is helpful in understanding liver cancer–specific mechanisms of T cell tolerance and dissection of antigen-specific and nonspecific mechanisms of immunotherapies in the preclinical phase. (HEPATOLOGY 2009.)