Immunopeptidome of hepatocytes isolated from patients with HBV infection and hepatocellular carcinoma

Monique T.A. de Beijer, Karel Bezstarosti, Robbie Luijten, Wouter A.S. Doff, Patrick P.C. Boor, Roel F.A. Pieterman, Rachid Bouzid, Paula J. Biesta, Jan N.M. Ijzermans, Michail Doukas, Robert A. de Man, Andrea M. Woltman, Jeroen A.A. Demmers, Sonja I. Buschow*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

Background & Aims: Antigen-specific immunotherapy is a promising strategy to treat HBV infection and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). To facilitate killing of malignant and/or infected hepatocytes, it is vital to know which T cell targets are presented by human leucocyte antigen (HLA)-I complexes on patient-derived hepatocytes. Here, we aimed to reveal the hepatocyte-specific HLA-I peptidome with emphasis on peptides derived from HBV proteins and tumour-associated antigens (TAA) to guide development of antigen-specific immunotherapy. Methods: Primary human hepatocytes were isolated with high purity from (HBV-infected) non-tumour and HCC tissues using a newly designed perfusion-free procedure. Hepatocyte-derived HLA-bound peptides were identified by unbiased mass spectrometry (MS), after which source proteins were subjected to Gene Ontology and pathway analysis. HBV antigen and TAA-derived HLA peptides were searched for using targeted MS, and a selection of peptides was tested for immunogenicity. Results: Using unbiased data-dependent acquisition (DDA), we acquired a high-quality HLA-I peptidome of 2 × 105 peptides that contained 8 HBV-derived peptides and 14 peptides from 8 known HCC-associated TAA that were exclusive to tumours. Of these, 3 HBV- and 12 TAA-derived HLA peptides were detected by targeted MS in the sample they were originally identified in by DDA. Moreover, 2 HBV- and 2 TAA-derived HLA peptides were detected in samples in which no identification was made using unbiased MS. Finally, immunogenicity was demonstrated for 5 HBV-derived and 3 TAA-derived peptides. Conclusions: We present a first HLA-I immunopeptidome of isolated primary human hepatocytes, devoid of immune cells. Identified HBV-derived and TAA-derived peptides directly aid development of antigen-specific immunotherapy for chronic HBV infection and HCC. The described methodology can also be applied to personalise immunotherapeutic treatment of liver diseases in general. Lay summary: Immunotherapy that aims to induce immune responses against a virus or tumour is a promising novel treatment option to treat chronic HBV infection and liver cancer. For the design of successful therapy, it is essential to know which fragments (i.e. peptides) of virus-derived and tumour-specific proteins are presented to the T cells of the immune system by diseased liver cells and are thus good targets for immunotherapy. Here, we have isolated liver cells from patients who have chronic HBV infection and/or liver cancer, analysed what peptides are presented by these cells, and assessed which peptides are able to drive immune responses.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100576
JournalJHEP Reports
Volume4
Issue number11
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was financed by a unique high-risk grant from the Dutch Cancer Society ( 10429 ) and the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy by means of the public private partnership (PPP) allowance from the Top Sector Life Sciences & Health to stimulate public–private partnerships in conjunction with the Dutch Digestive Foundation (LSHM16056). In the latter, ISA Pharmaceuticals B.V. Leiden, the Netherlands, is the collaborating and co-funding private partner.

Publisher Copyright: © 2022 The Author(s)

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