Potential MMP2-mediated availability of HLA binding, mutant ECM peptides reflects better melanoma survival rates and greater T-cell infiltrates


Proteases in the cancer microenvironment have been studied for some time, with a general conclusion that such proteases facilitate the spread of cancer, although there is some controversy regarding that conclusion in later-stage cancer development. More recently, a very large collection of data regarding mutant amino acids in the potential substrates of cancer microenvironment proteases have become available. To better understand the potential impact of these mutant amino acids on protease function and cancer progression, we established a bioinformatics approach to assessing the impact of melanoma mutants, among a previously defined set of extracellular matrix (ECM) structural proteins, on the sensitivity of matrix metalloproteinase-2 (MMP2), extensively associated with melanoma. The results indicated that tumor samples with mutant amino acids adjacent to the ECM structural protein, MMP2 sites also represented a better survival rate and a larger proportion of mutant peptides with high HLA class I-binding affinities, particularly in comparison with melanoma samples with a reduced or absent T-cell infiltrate. Furthermore, even better HLA class I binders were identified among the samples representing the ECM structural protein mutants resistant to MMP2. Samples representing only MMP2-resistant mutants also represented a worse overall survival. Overall, this analysis suggested that MMP2 has the capacity of freeing mutant peptides that could facilitate an anti-tumor response and a better survival rate, and this analysis has the potential of resolving some of the controversy surrounding the role of cancer proteases in cancer progression.

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The authors wish to thank USF research computing and the taxpayers of the State of Florida. SZ, BIC, MMM, and AD were recipients of USF Morsani College of Medicine RISE fellowships.

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Correspondence to George Blanck.

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