Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 15820153
Microbes Infect. 2005 Apr;7(4):626-34
A polyepitopic CD8+ T-cell response is critical for the control of hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection. The HBV X protein (HBx) is a multifunctional protein that is important for the viral life cycle and for host-virus interactions. The aim of this study was to analyze the immunogenicity and dominance of various HLA-A*0201-restricted HBx-derived epitopes. For this purpose, we immunized HLA-A*0201-transgenic mice with HBx-derived peptides and DNA. This is a powerful model for studying the induction of HLA-A*0201-restricted immune responses in vivo, as these mice possess a cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) repertoire representative of HLA-A2.1 individuals. We used cytotoxic tests and enzyme-linked immunosorbent spot (ELISPOT) assays to study the induction of specific cytotoxic and interferon (IFN)-gamma-secreting T cells. This allowed us to classify the HBx epitopes according to their T-cell activation capacity. After endogenous processing of the antigen synthesized in vivo after DNA-based immunization, we found that the HBx-specific T-cell response is targeted against one immunodominant epitope. Furthermore, following peptide immunization, we identified six additional novel subdominant T-cell epitopes. Inclusion of well-characterized epitopic sequences of HBx in a new vaccine for chronic HBV infections could help to broaden the T-cell response.