Immunogenicity of an influenza virus-vectored vaccine carrying the hepatitis C virus protein epitopes in mice

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Hepatitis C virus (HCV) has a devastating impact on human health, and infections can progress into liver fibrosis, cirrhosis, and hepatocellular carcinoma. There is no effective HCV vaccine. In this study, we rescued a recombinant PR8 influenza viral vector, called rgFLU-HCVCE1E2, carrying the core and envelope glycoprotein (C/E1/E2) epitopes of HCV inserted into the influenza nonstructural protein 1 gene. The morphological characteristics of rgFLU-HCVCE1E2 and the expression of the C/E1/E2 epitopes of HCV were examined. rgFLU-HCVCE1E2 replicated in various cell lines, including MDCK, A549, and Huh7.5 cells. More importantly, in BALB/c mice immunized intranasally twice at a 21-day interval with 104, 105, or 106 TCID50 rgFLU-HCVCE1E2, the viral vector induced a robust antibody response to influenza and HCV and potent IFN-γ and IL-4 secretion in response to HCV antigens in a dose-dependent manner. The rgFLU-HCVCE1E2 virus also stimulated IFN-γ production by virus-specific peripheral blood mononuclear cells in patients with chronic HCV infection. The study demonstrated that rgFLU-HCVCE1E2 carrying HCV antigens is immunogenic in vivo and has potential for the development of a HCV vaccine.

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