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J Gen Virol. 2012 Feb;93(Pt 2):247-58. doi: 10.1099/vir.0.037903-0. Epub 2011 Nov 9.

Generation of T-cell receptors targeting a genetically stable and immunodominant cytotoxic T-lymphocyte epitope within hepatitis C virus non-structural protein 3.

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  • 1Department of Dental Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.


Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a major cause of severe liver disease, and one major contributing factor is thought to involve a dysfunction of virus-specific T-cells. T-cell receptor (TCR) gene therapy with HCV-specific TCRs would increase the number of effector T-cells to promote virus clearance. We therefore took advantage of HLA-A2 transgenic mice to generate multiple TCR candidates against HCV using DNA vaccination followed by generation of stable T-cell-BW (T-BW) tumour hybrid cells. Using this approach, large numbers of non-structural protein 3 (NS3)-specific functional T-BW hybrids can be generated efficiently. These predominantly target the genetically stable HCV genotype 1 NS3(1073-1081) CTL epitope, frequently associated with clearance of HCV in humans. These T-BW hybrid clones recognized the NS3(1073) peptide with a high avidity. The hybridoma effectively recognized virus variants and targeted cells with low HLA-A2 expression, which has not been reported previously. Importantly, high-avidity murine TCRs effectively redirected human non-HCV-specific T-lymphocytes to recognize human hepatoma cells with HCV RNA replication driven by a subgenomic HCV replicon. Taken together, TCR candidates with a range of functional avidities, which can be used to study immune recognition of HCV-positive targets, have been generated. This has implications for TCR-related immunotherapy against HCV.

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