One of the challenges of tumour immunology remains the identification of strongly immunogenic tumour antigens for vaccination. Reverse immunology, that is, the procedure to predict and identify immunogenic peptides from the sequence of a gene product of interest, has been postulated to be a particularly efficient, high-throughput approach for tumour antigen discovery. Over one decade after this concept was born, we discuss the reverse immunology approach in terms of costs and efficacy: data mining with bioinformatic algorithms, molecular methods to identify tumour-specific transcripts, prediction and determination of proteasomal cleavage sites, peptide-binding prediction to HLA molecules and experimental validation, assessment of the in vitro and in vivo immunogenic potential of selected peptide antigens, isolation of specific cytolytic T lymphocyte clones and final validation in functional assays of tumour cell recognition. We conclude that the overall low sensitivity and yield of every prediction step often requires a compensatory up-scaling of the initial number of candidate sequences to be screened, rendering reverse immunology an unexpectedly complex approach. © 2006 Australasian Society for Immunology Inc.
- Cytolytic T lymphocyte (CTL)
- Tumour antigen