Structure-Based and Rational Design of a Hepatitis C Virus Vaccine

Viruses. 2021 May 5;13(5):837. doi: 10.3390/v13050837.


A hepatitis C virus (HCV) vaccine is a critical yet unfulfilled step in addressing the global disease burden of HCV. While decades of research have led to numerous clinical and pre-clinical vaccine candidates, these efforts have been hindered by factors including HCV antigenic variability and immune evasion. Structure-based and rational vaccine design approaches have capitalized on insights regarding the immune response to HCV and the structures of antibody-bound envelope glycoproteins. Despite successes with other viruses, designing an immunogen based on HCV glycoproteins that can elicit broadly protective immunity against HCV infection is an ongoing challenge. Here, we describe HCV vaccine design approaches where immunogens were selected and optimized through analysis of available structures, identification of conserved epitopes targeted by neutralizing antibodies, or both. Several designs have elicited immune responses against HCV in vivo, revealing correlates of HCV antigen immunogenicity and breadth of induced responses. Recent studies have elucidated the functional, dynamic and immunological features of key regions of the viral envelope glycoproteins, which can inform next-generation immunogen design efforts. These insights and design strategies represent promising pathways to HCV vaccine development, which can be further informed by successful immunogen designs generated for other viruses.

Keywords: E1E2; HCV; structure-based vaccine design.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Neutralizing / immunology
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Hepacivirus / chemistry*
  • Hepacivirus / immunology*
  • Hepatitis C Antibodies / immunology
  • Hepatitis C Antigens / chemistry*
  • Hepatitis C Antigens / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Models, Molecular
  • Protein Conformation
  • Vaccine Development / methods*
  • Viral Envelope Proteins / chemistry
  • Viral Envelope Proteins / immunology
  • Viral Hepatitis Vaccines / immunology


  • Antibodies, Neutralizing
  • Hepatitis C Antibodies
  • Hepatitis C Antigens
  • Viral Envelope Proteins
  • Viral Hepatitis Vaccines