Date of Graduation


Document Type

Dissertation (PhD)

Program Affiliation


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Advisor/Committee Chair

Gregory Lizee

Committee Member

Patrick Hwu

Committee Member

Stephanie Watowich

Committee Member

Stephen Ulrrich

Committee Member

Willem Overwijk


The presentation of MHC class I (MHC-I)/peptide complexes by dendritic cells (DCs) is critical for the maintenance of central tolerance to self and for the regulation of cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL)-mediated adaptive immune responses against pathogens and cancer cells. Interestingly, several findings have suggested that the cytoplasmic tail of MHC class I plays a functional role in the regulation of CTL immune responses. For example, our previous studies demonstrated that exon 7-deleted MHC-I molecules not only showed extended DC cell surface half-lives but also induced significantly increased CTL responses to viral challange invivo. Although exon 7-deleted variant of MHC-I does not occur naturally in humans, the animal studies prompted us to examine whether exon 7-deleted MHC-I molecules could generate augmented CTL responses in a therapeutic DC-based vaccine setting. To examine the stimulatory capacity of exon 7-deleted MHC-I molecules, we generated a lentivirus-mediated gene transfer system to induce the expression of different MHC-I cytoplasmic tail isoforms in both mouse and human DCs. These DCs were then used as vaccines in a melanoma mouse tumor model and in a human invitro co-culture system.

In this thesis, we show that DCs expressing exon 7-deleted MHC-I molecules, stimulated remarkably higher levels of T-cell cytokine production and significantly increased the proliferation of meanoma-specific (Pmel-1) T cells compared with DCs expressing wild type MHC-I. We also demonstrate that, in combination with adoptive transfer of Pmel-1 T-cell, DCs expressing exon 7-deleted Db molecules induced greater anti-tumor responses against established B16 melanoma tumors, significantly extending mouse survival as compared to DCs expressing wild-type Db molecules. Moreover, we also observed that human DCs expressing exon 7-deleted HLA-A2 molecules showed similarly augmented CTL stimulatory ability. Mechanistic studies suggest that exon 7-deleted MHC-I molecules showed impaired lateral membrane movement and extended cell surface half-lives within the DC/T-cell interface, leading to increased spatial availability of MHC-I/peptide complexes for recognition by CD8+ T cells. Collectively, these results suggesr that targeting exon 7 within the cytoplasmic tail of MHC-I molecules in DC vaccines has the potential to enhance CD8+ T cell stimulatory capacity and improve clinical outcomes in patients with cancer or viral infections.