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Hum Immunol. 1999 Mar;60(3):187-99.

In vitro human Th-cell responses to a recombinant hepatitis C virus antigen: failure in IL-2 production despite proliferation.

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Blood Research Institute, The Blood Center, Milwaukee, WI 53201-2178, USA.


Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) causes chronic infection in 80-90% of those exposed and persists despite evidence of immune recognition. To understand the immunological basis of this phenomenon, we have synthesized a non structural (NS) protein that is critical to HCV infection and replication, NS3, and used it to study in vitro helper T-cell responses from infected individuals. Strong proliferative responses were generated by peripheral T-cells isolated from a subset of chronically infected patients, but not by normal, non-infected controls. Interestingly, though gamma-interferon (gammaIfn) and IL-10 were both secreted in response to stimulation by NS3 antigen, IL-2 was not. In contrast, IL-2 was secreted in response to influenza virus vaccine antigen. Lack of IL-2 induction was confirmed by a failure to amplify IL-2 mRNA upon NS3 antigen stimulation, whereas IL-4, IL-15, and gammaIfn mRNA were seen as early as 24 h. The predominance of IL-4 and IL-10 and the lack of IL-2 suggests that in vitro responses to at least some HCV antigens are biased towards a Th2 phenotype, which may be conducive to viral persistence.

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