• Major histocompatibility complex;
  • Mass spectrometry;
  • Renal cell carcinoma;
  • Stable isotope labeling;
  • Tumor antigen


In this study, we describe a differential mass spectrometric technique for the immuno-proteomic analysis of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) peptides of a renal cell carcinoma (RCC) biopsy compared with the healthy kidney tissue of the same patient after nephrectomy. Using a stable isotope labeling approach, we could directly compare and relatively quantify 43 MHC-peptide pairs, most of which were present in similar proportions on both normal kidney and tumor. Significantly, two dominant peptides of monoisotopic masses ([M+H]+) 973.43 u and 967.59 u, respectively, were found exclusively in the tumor sample. One of these was identified as originating from heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1), a protein involved in induction of apoptosis resistance, immuno-suppression and neoangiogenesis and reported to be up-regulated in various cancer types. Moreover, the corresponding synthetic HO-1-derived peptide was shown to be immunogenic in vitro by generation of CD8+ T cell lines with peptide-specific cytolytic activity. Thus, this peptide is an example of a differentially identified T cell epitope that could be considered as a target for immunotherapy.