Evolution of the Humoral Response during HCV Infection: Theories on the Origin of Broadly Neutralizing Antibodies and Implications for Vaccine Design

Adv Immunol. 2016;129:55-107. doi: 10.1016/bs.ai.2015.09.004. Epub 2015 Oct 23.


Similar to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-1, vaccine-induced elicitation of broadly neutralizing (bNt) antibodies (Abs) is gaining traction as a key goal toward the eradication of the hepatitis C virus (HCV) pandemic. Previously, the significance of the Ab response against HCV was underappreciated given the prevailing evidence advancing the role of the cellular immune response in clearance and overall control of the infection. However, recent findings have driven growing interest in the humoral arm of the immune response and in particular the role of bNt responses due to their ability to confer protective immunity upon passive transfer in animal models. Nevertheless, the origin and development of bNt Abs is poorly understood and their occurrence is rare as well as delayed with emergence only observed in the chronic phase of infection. In this review, we characterize the interplay between the host immune response and HCV as it progresses from the acute to chronic phase of infection. In addition, we place these events in the context of current hypotheses on the origin of bNt Abs against the HIV-1, whose humoral immune response is better characterized. Based on the increasing significance of the humoral immune response against HCV, characterization of these events may be critical in understanding the development of the bNt responses and, thus, provide strategies toward effective vaccine design.

Keywords: Broadly neutralizing antibodies; Chronic; HCV; HIV-1; Humoral.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Neutralizing / immunology*
  • Autoantibodies / immunology
  • Clinical Trials, Phase I as Topic
  • HIV-1 / immunology*
  • Hepacivirus / immunology*
  • Hepatitis C, Chronic / epidemiology*
  • Hepatitis C, Chronic / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Cellular
  • Immunity, Humoral*
  • Pandemics*
  • Viral Hepatitis Vaccines / genetics
  • Viral Hepatitis Vaccines / immunology*


  • Antibodies, Neutralizing
  • Autoantibodies
  • Viral Hepatitis Vaccines