Efficacy of dendritic cell (DC) cancer vaccines is classically thought to depend on their antigen-presenting cell (APC) activity. Studies show, however, that DC vaccine priming of cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) requires the activity of endogenous DCs, suggesting that exogenous DCs stimulate antitumor immunity by transferring antigens (Ags) to endogenous DCs. Such Ag transfer functions are most commonly ascribed to monocytes, implying that undifferentiated monocytes would function equally well as a vaccine modality and need not be differentiated to DCs to be effective. Here, we used several murine cancer models to test the antitumor efficacy of undifferentiated monocytes loaded with protein or peptide Ag. Intravenously injected monocytes displayed antitumor activity superior to DC vaccines in several cancer models, including aggressive intracranial glioblastoma. Ag-loaded monocytes induced robust CTL responses via Ag transfer to splenic CD8+ DCs in a manner independent of monocyte APC activity. Ag transfer required cell-cell contact and the formation of connexin 43–containing gap junctions between monocytes and DCs. These findings demonstrate the existence of an efficient gap junction–mediated Ag transfer pathway between monocytes and CD8+ DCs and suggest that administration of tumor Ag–loaded undifferentiated monocytes may serve as a simple and efficacious immunotherapy for the treatment of human cancers.
Min-Nung Huang, Lowell T. Nicholson, Kristen A. Batich, Adam M. Swartz, David Kopin, Sebastian Wellford, Vijay K. Prabhakar, Karolina Woroniecka, Smita K. Nair, Peter E. Fecci, John H. Sampson, Michael D. Gunn