Robust Iterative Stimulation with Self-Antigens Overcomes CD8+ T Cell Tolerance to Self- and Tumor Antigens

Christine E. Nelson, Emily A. Thompson, Clare F. Quarnstrom, Kathryn A. Fraser, Davis M. Seelig, Siddheshvar Bhela, Brandon J. Burbach, David Masopust, Vaiva Vezys

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The immune system adapts to constitutive antigens to preserve self-tolerance, which is a major barrier for anti-tumor immunity. Antigen-specific reversal of tolerance constitutes a major goal to spur therapeutic applications. Here, we show that robust, iterative, systemic stimulation targeting tissue-specific antigens in the context of acute infections reverses established CD8+ T cell tolerance to self, including in T cells that survive negative selection. This strategy results in large numbers of circulating and resident memory self-specific CD8+ T cells that are widely distributed and can be co-opted to control established malignancies bearing self-antigen without concomitant autoimmunity. Targeted expansion of both self- and tumor neoantigen-specific T cells acts synergistically to boost anti-tumor immunity and elicits protection against aggressive melanoma. Our findings demonstrate that T cell tolerance can be re-adapted to responsiveness through robust antigenic exposure, generating self-specific CD8+ T cells that can be used for cancer treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3092-3104.e5
JournalCell reports
Issue number12
StatePublished - Sep 17 2019


  • CD8 T cell
  • cancer
  • dysfunction
  • exhaustion
  • neo-antigen
  • resident memory
  • reversal
  • self-antigen
  • tolerance
  • vaccination

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

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