Gemcitabine Modulates HLA-I Regulation to Improve Tumor Antigen Presentation by Pancreatic Cancer Cells

Alaina C. Larson, Shelby M. Knoche, Gabrielle L. Brumfield, Kenadie R. Doty, Benjamin D. Gephart, Promise R. Moore-Saufley, Joyce C. Solheim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Pancreatic cancer is a lethal disease, harboring a five-year overall survival rate of only 13%. Current treatment approaches thus require modulation, with attention shifting towards liberating the stalled efficacy of immunotherapies. Select chemotherapy drugs which possess inherent immune-modifying behaviors could revitalize immune activity against pancreatic tumors and potentiate immunotherapeutic success. In this study, we characterized the influence of gemcitabine, a chemotherapy drug approved for the treatment of pancreatic cancer, on tumor antigen presentation by human leukocyte antigen class I (HLA-I). Gemcitabine increased pancreatic cancer cells’ HLA-I mRNA transcripts, total protein, surface expression, and surface stability. Temperature-dependent assay results indicated that the increased HLA-I stability may be due to reduced binding of low affinity peptides. Mass spectrometry analysis confirmed changes in the HLA-I-presented peptide pool post-treatment, and computational predictions suggested improved affinity and immunogenicity of peptides displayed solely by gemcitabine-treated cells. Most of the gemcitabine-exclusive peptides were derived from unique source proteins, with a notable overrepresentation of translation-related proteins. Gemcitabine also increased expression of select immunoproteasome subunits, providing a plausible mechanism for its modulation of the HLA-I-bound peptidome. Our work supports continued investigation of immunotherapies, including peptide-based vaccines, to be used with gemcitabine as new combination treatment modalities for pancreatic cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number3211
JournalInternational journal of molecular sciences
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 2024


  • antigen presentation
  • chemotherapy
  • gemcitabine
  • human leukocyte antigen class I
  • immunomodulatory
  • immunoproteasome
  • neoantigen
  • pancreatic cancer
  • peptide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Molecular Biology
  • Spectroscopy
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry


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