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Specific Antibodies Induced by Immunization with Hepatitis B Virus-Like Particles Carrying Hepatitis C Virus Envelope Glycoprotein 2 Epitopes Show Differential Neutralization Efficiency

1
Laboratory of Virus Molecular Biology, Intercollegiate Faculty of Biotechnology, University of Gdańsk, 80-309 Gdańsk, Poland
2
Copenhagen Hepatitis C Program (CO-HEP), Department of Infectious Diseases, Hvidovre Hospital, 2650 Hvidovre, Denmark
3
Department of Immunology and Microbiology, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Copenhagen, 2200 Copenhagen, Denmark
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Vaccines 2020, 8(2), 294; https://doi.org/10.3390/vaccines8020294
Received: 23 April 2020 / Revised: 30 May 2020 / Accepted: 6 June 2020 / Published: 10 June 2020
(This article belongs to the Section Hepatitis Virus Vaccines)
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection with associated chronic liver diseases is a major health problem worldwide. Here, we designed hepatitis B virus (HBV) small surface antigen (sHBsAg) virus-like particles (VLPs) presenting different epitopes derived from the HCV E2 glycoprotein (residues 412–425, 434–446, 502–520, and 523–535 of isolate H77C). Epitopes were selected based on their amino acid sequence conservation and were previously reported as targets of HCV neutralizing antibodies. Chimeric VLPs obtained in the Leishmania tarentolae expression system, in combination with the adjuvant Addavax, were used to immunize mice. Although all VLPs induced strong humoral responses, only antibodies directed against HCV 412–425 and 523–535 epitopes were able to react with the native E1E2 glycoprotein complexes of different HCV genotypes in ELISA. Neutralization assays against genotype 1–6 cell culture infectious HCV (HCVcc), revealed that only VLPs carrying the 412–425 epitope induced efficient HCV cross-neutralizing antibodies, but with isolate specific variations in efficacy that could not necessarily be explained by differences in epitope sequences. In contrast, antibodies targeting 434–446, 502–520, and 523–535 epitopes were not neutralizing HCVcc, highlighting the importance of conformational antibodies for efficient virus neutralization. Thus, 412–425 remains the most promising linear E2 epitope for further bivalent, rationally designed vaccine research. View Full-Text
Keywords: hepatitis C virus; vaccine; virus like particles (VLPs); HBV small surface antigen (sHBsAg) hepatitis C virus; vaccine; virus like particles (VLPs); HBV small surface antigen (sHBsAg)
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Czarnota, A.; Offersgaard, A.; Pihl, A.F.; Prentoe, J.; Bukh, J.; Gottwein, J.M.; Bieńkowska-Szewczyk, K.; Grzyb, K. Specific Antibodies Induced by Immunization with Hepatitis B Virus-Like Particles Carrying Hepatitis C Virus Envelope Glycoprotein 2 Epitopes Show Differential Neutralization Efficiency. Vaccines 2020, 8, 294.

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