Broadening CD4(+) and CD8(+) T Cell Responses against Hepatitis C Virus by Vaccination with NS3 Overlapping Peptide Panels in Cross-Priming Liposomes

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Despite the introduction of effective drugs to treat patients with chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection, a vaccine would be the only means to substantially reduce the worldwide disease burden. An incomplete understanding of how HCV interacts with its human host and evades immune surveillance has hampered vaccine development. It is generally accepted that in infected individuals, a narrow repertoire of exhausted T cells is a hallmark of persistent infection, whereas broad, vigorous CD4+ and CD8+ T cell responses are associated with control of acute hepatitis C. We employed a vaccine approach based on a mixture of peptides (pepmix) spanning the entire sequence of HCV nonstructural protein 3 (NS3) in cross-priming cationic liposomes (CAF09) to facilitate a versatile presentation of all possible T cell epitopes, regardless of the HLA background of the vaccine recipient. Here, we demonstrate that vaccination of mice with NS3 pepmix broadens the repertoire of epitope-specific T cells compared to the corresponding recombinant protein (rNS3). Moreover, vaccination with rNS3 induced only CD4+ T cells, whereas the NS3 pepmix induced a far more vigorous CD4+ T cell response and was as potent a CD8+ T cell inducer as an adenovirus-vectored vaccine expressing NS3. Importantly, the cellular responses are dominated by multifunctional T cells, such as gamma interferon-positive (IFN-γ+) tumor necrosis factor alpha-positive (TNF-α+) coproducers, and displayed cytotoxic capacity in mice. In conclusion, we present a novel vaccine approach against HCV, inducing a broadened T cell response targeting both immunodominant and potential subdominant epitopes, which may be key elements to counter T cell exhaustion and prevent chronicity.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere00130-17
JournalJournal of Virology
Issue number14
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2017

    Research areas

  • hepaciviruses, HCV, hepatitis, vaccine, cellular immunity, hepatitis C virus

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