HLA class I-restricted cytotoxic T lymphocytes specific for hepatitis C virus. Identification of multiple epitopes and characterization of patterns of cytokine release

J Clin Invest. 1995 Nov;96(5):2311-21. doi: 10.1172/JCI118287.


Cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL) are important to the control of viral replication and their presence may be important to disease outcome. An understanding of the spectrum of proteins recognized by hepatitis C virus (HCV)-specific CTL and the functional properties of these cells is an important step in understanding the disease process and the mechanisms of persistent infection, which occurs in the majority of HCV-infected individuals. In this report we identify HCV-specific CTL responses restricted by the HLA class I molecules A2, A3, A11, A23, B7, B8, and B53. The epitopes recognized by these intrahepatic CTL conform to published motifs for binding to HLA class I molecules, although in some cases we have identified CTL epitopes for which no published motif exists. The use of vectors expressing two different strains of HCV, HCV-1 and HCV-H, revealed both strain-specific and cross-reactive CTL. These HCV-specific CTL were shown to produce cytokines including IFN-gamma, TNF-alpha, GM-CSF, IL-8, and IL-10 in an antigen- and HLA class I-specific manner. These studies indicate that the CTL response to HCV is broadly directed and that as many as five different epitopes may be targeted in a single individual. The identification of minimal epitopes may facilitate peptide-specific immunization strategies. In addition, the release of proinflammatory cytokines by these cells may contribute to the pathogenesis of HCV-induced liver damage.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Cytokines / biosynthesis
  • Epitope Mapping
  • Granulocyte-Macrophage Colony-Stimulating Factor / biosynthesis
  • Hepacivirus / immunology*
  • Hepatitis C / immunology*
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-10 / biosynthesis
  • Interleukin-8 / biosynthesis
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic / immunology*
  • Viral Vaccines / immunology


  • Cytokines
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class I
  • Interleukin-8
  • Viral Vaccines
  • Interleukin-10
  • Granulocyte-Macrophage Colony-Stimulating Factor