Hypervariable Region 1 in Envelope Protein 2 of Hepatitis C Virus: A Linchpin in Neutralizing Antibody Evasion and Viral Entry

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Chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is the cause of about 400,000 annual liver disease-related deaths. The global spread of this important human pathogen can potentially be prevented through the development of a vaccine, but this challenge has proven difficult, and much remains unknown about the multitude of mechanisms by which this heterogeneous RNA virus evades inactivation by neutralizing antibodies (NAbs). The N-terminal motif of envelope protein 2 (E2), termed hypervariable region 1 (HVR1), changes rapidly in immunoglobulin-competent patients due to antibody-driven antigenic drift. HVR1 contains NAb epitopes and is directly involved in protecting diverse antibody-specific epitopes on E1, E2, and E1/E2 through incompletely understood mechanisms. The ability of HVR1 to protect HCV from NAbs appears linked with modulation of HCV entry co-receptor interactions. Thus, removal of HVR1 increases interaction with CD81, while altering interaction with scavenger receptor class B, type I (SR-BI) in a complex fashion, and decreasing interaction with low-density lipoprotein receptor. Despite intensive efforts this modulation of receptor interactions by HVR1 remains incompletely understood. SR-BI has received the most attention and it appears that HVR1 is involved in a multimodal HCV/SR-BI interaction involving high-density-lipoprotein associated ApoCI, which may prime the virus for later entry events by exposing conserved NAb epitopes, like those in the CD81 binding site. To fully elucidate the multifunctional role of HVR1 in HCV entry and NAb evasion, improved E1/E2 models and comparative studies with other NAb evasion strategies are needed. Derived knowledge may be instrumental in the development of a prophylactic HCV vaccine.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2146
JournalFrontiers in Immunology
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2018

    Research areas

  • hepatitis C virus (HCV), hypervariable region 1 (HVR1), neutralization, vaccine design, viral entry

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