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.
Bibliographical noteFunding 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)