Résumé : BACKGROUND: The ultimate success of cancer vaccination is primarily dependent upon the generation of tumour-specific CTLs. Protein-based vaccination, while safe, poorly elicits such CTL responses. As fusion of an antigen to the HIV-1 Tat transduction domain was reported to increase MHC class I presentation and CTL responses in vitro, we tested the potency of this approach to augment tumour-directed responses. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Human papillomavirus type 16 (HPV16) E7 proteins, fused (E7-Tat) or not (E7) to Tat carboxy-terminal region, were produced and studied in vitro and in vivo. RESULTS: E7-Tat, not E7, penetrated the cell membrane and was transcriptionally active. In vitro, E7-Tat induced higher IFN-gamma production from E7-specific T-cells than E7. In C57BL/6 mice, E7-Tat mixed with Quil A generated enhanced prophylactic and therapeutic suppression of HPV16-positive C3 tumour outgrowth. Similar, but greatly enhanced E7-specific effector and helper T-cell responses were elicited following E7-Tat/Quil A rather than E7/Quil A vaccination. CONCLUSION: This study offers a new strategy for improving subunit cancer vaccines.