Tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) and hepatitis B nonresponders feature different immunologic mechanisms in response to TBE and influenza vaccination with involvement of regulatory T and B cells and IL-10

J Immunol. 2013 Sep 1;191(5):2426-36. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1300293. Epub 2013 Jul 19.


Low responsiveness/nonresponsiveness is characterized by an insufficient immune response upon primary and/or booster vaccination and affects 1-10% of vaccinees. In the current study, we aimed to investigate whether nonresponsiveness is an Ag/vaccine-specific phenomenon and to clarify underlying immunological mechanisms. Nonresponders to tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) or hepatitis B Ag with a history of previous TBE vaccinations were booster vaccinated with TBE and influenza vaccine and compared with TBE high responders in terms of humoral and cellular immune response. Postboosters in TBE high responder existing TBE titers increased, and solid humoral responses to influenza vaccine were induced. In TBE nonresponders, low to undetectable prevaccination TBE titers remained low, whereas sufficient influenza Abs were induced. In both TBE groups, a positive correlation of humoral and cellular immune response was seen as high/low TBE titers were associated with sufficient/lack of Ag-specific T cell proliferation. Furthermore, responses to influenza were robust in terms of Abs and cytokine production. In contrast, in hepatitis B nonresponders, sufficient humoral responses to TBE and influenza Ags were induced despite lacking specific IL-2 and IFN-γ production. Importantly, these patients showed high IL-10 baseline levels in vitro. HLA-DR subtypes associated with hepatitis B nonresponsiveness were overrepresented in this group, and high IL-10 levels were linked to these subtypes. Whereas TBE and hepatitis B nonresponders had increased IL-10-producing FOXP3(+) T regulatory cells upon vaccination, only in hepatitis B nonresponders, showing elevated prevaccination IL-10 levels, a prominent population of B regulatory cells was detected. We conclude that immunological pathways of nonresponsiveness follow different patterns depending both on vaccine Ag and genetic predisposition of the vaccinee.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antibodies, Viral / blood
  • B-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / immunology*
  • Encephalitis, Tick-Borne / immunology
  • Encephalitis, Tick-Borne / prevention & control
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Female
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • HLA-DR Antigens / genetics
  • Hepatitis B / immunology
  • Hepatitis B / prevention & control
  • Hepatitis B Vaccines / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immunization, Secondary
  • Influenza Vaccines / immunology*
  • Interleukin-10 / immunology*
  • Male
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / immunology*
  • Viral Vaccines / immunology*


  • Antibodies, Viral
  • FSME-IMMUN vaccine
  • HLA-DR Antigens
  • Hepatitis B Vaccines
  • IL10 protein, human
  • Influenza Vaccines
  • Viral Vaccines
  • Interleukin-10