Effects of thymic selection on T cell recognition of foreign and tumor antigenic peptides [Biophysics and Computational Biology]
The advent of cancer immunotherapy has generated renewed hope for the treatment of many malignancies by introducing a number of novel strategies that exploit various properties of the immune system. These therapies are based on the idea that cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) directly recognize and respond to tumor-associated neoantigens (TANs) in much the same way as they would to foreign peptides presented on cell surfaces. To date, however, nearly all attempts to optimize immunotherapeutic strategies have been empirical. Here, we develop a model of T cell selection based on the assumption of random interaction strengths between a self-peptide and the various T cell receptors. The model enables the analytical study of the effects of selection on the CTL recognition of TANs and completely foreign peptides and can estimate the number of CTLs that can detect donor-matched transplants. We show that negative selection thresholds chosen to reflect experimentally observed thymic survival rates result in near-optimal production of T cells that are capable of surviving selection and recognizing foreign antigen. These analytical results are confirmed by simulation.
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