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, 74 (3), 397-405

Genetic Immunization and Comprehensive Screening Approaches in HLA-A2 Transgenic Mice Lead to the Identification of Three Novel Epitopes in Hepatitis C Virus NS3 Antigen

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Genetic Immunization and Comprehensive Screening Approaches in HLA-A2 Transgenic Mice Lead to the Identification of Three Novel Epitopes in Hepatitis C Virus NS3 Antigen

P Martin et al. J Med Virol.

Abstract

Interferon-gamma (IFN gamma)-producing CD8+ T cells have been shown to play a key role in the control or eradication of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections. In particular, T cells specific of the non-structural protein 3 (NS3) are often associated with control of viremia. The aim of the study was to identify novel HLA-A2 restricted CD8+ T cell epitopes specific of NS3 using a combination of comprehensive approaches. HLA-A2.1 transgenic mice were immunized with a DNA vaccine optimized for NS3 specific epitope presentation and induced CD8+ T cell reactivity was screened using 42 algorithm-predicted peptides as well as a library of 78 overlapping 15-mer peptides spanning the whole protein. Three epitopes mapping within the NS3 protease (GLL: aa 1038-1047) or helicase (ATL: aa 1260-1268 and TLH: aa 1617-1625) were identified. These epitopes, which display similar and high in vitro binding capacities to soluble HLA-A2 molecules, are able to induce either cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL) and/or IFN gamma-producing T cells. Comparative in vitro target cell sensitization studies revealed a higher immunogenicity of the GLL peptide as compared with both ATL and TLH peptides. This peptide was capable to recall in vitro HCV-specific IFN gamma and IL-10-producing T cells from peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) of chronically infected patients. These data increase the pool of NS3-specific CD8+ T cell epitopes available to analyze HCV associated immunity and could contribute to the design and evaluation of candidate vaccines.

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