Noncanonical splicing junctions between exons and transposable elements represent a source of immunogenic recurrent neo-antigens in patients with lung cancer
Although most characterized tumor antigens are encoded by canonical transcripts (such as differentiation or tumor-testis antigens) or mutations (both driver and passenger mutations), recent results have shown that noncanonical transcripts including long noncoding RNAs and transposable elements (TEs) can also encode tumor-specific neo-antigens. Here, we investigate the presentation and immunogenicity of tumor antigens derived from noncanonical mRNA splicing events between coding exons and TEs. Comparing human non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and diverse healthy tissues, we identified a subset of splicing junctions that is both tumor specific and shared across patients. We used HLA-I peptidomics to identify peptides encoded by tumor-specific junctions in primary NSCLC samples and lung tumor cell lines. Recurrent junction-encoded peptides were immunogenic in vitro, and CD8
T cells specific for junction-encoded epitopes were present in tumors and tumor-draining lymph nodes from patients with NSCLC. We conclude that noncanonical splicing junctions between exons and TEs represent a source of recurrent, immunogenic tumor-specific antigens in patients with NSCLC.