Genetic immunization of wild-type and hepatitis C virus transgenic mice reveals a hierarchy of cellular immune response and tolerance induction against hepatitis C virus structural proteins

J. Satoi, K. Murata, M. Lechmann, E. Manickan, Z. Zhang, H. Wedemeyer, B. Rehermann, T. J. Liang

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To study the effect of genetic immunization on transgenic expression of hepatitis C virus (HCV) proteins, we evaluated the immunological response of HCV transgenic mice to HCV expression plasmids. FVB/n transgenic mice expressing HCV structural proteins (core, E1, and E2) and wild-type (WT) FVB/n mice were immunized intramuscularly with plasmids expressing core (pHCVcore) or core/E1/E2 (pHCVSt). After immunization, HCV-specific humoral and cellular immune response was studied. Both WT and transgenic mice immunized with either HCV construct produced antibodies and exhibited T-cell proliferative responses against core or envelope. In WT mice immunized with pHCVSt, cytotoxic T-lymphocyte (CTL) activities were detected against E2 but not against core or E1, whereas strong CTL activities against core could be detected in WT mice immunized with pHCVcore. In pHCVSt-immunized, transgenic mice, CTL activities against the core or envelope were completely absent, but core-specific CTL activities could be detected in pHCVcore-immunized transgenic mice. A similar pattern of immune responses was also observed in other mouse strains, including a transgenic line expressing human HLA-A2.1 molecules (AAD mice). Despite the presence of a peripheral cellular immunity against HCV, no liver pathology or lymphocytic infiltrate was observed in these transgenic mice. Our study suggests a hierarchy of CTL response against the HCW structural proteins (E2 > core > E1) in vivo when the proteins are expressed as a polyprotein. The HCV transgenic mice can be induced by DNA immunization to generate anti-HCV antibodies and anticore CTLs. However, they are tolerant at the CTL level against the E2 protein despite DNA immunization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12121-12127
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Virology
Issue number24
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology

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