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Virology. 2001 Sep 15;288(1):29-35.

Nonneutralizing human antibody fragments against hepatitis C virus E2 glycoprotein modulate neutralization of binding activity of human recombinant Fabs.

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  • 1Institute of Microbiology, Universit√† di Ancona, Ancona, 60020, Italy.


Evidence from clinical and experimental studies indicates that hepatitis C virus E2 (HCV/E2) glycoprotein is the major target of a putatively protective immune response. However, even in the presence of a vigorous production of anti-HCV/E2 antibodies, reinfection can occur. Dissection of the human immune response against HCV/E2 indicated that blocking of binding of HCV/E2 to target cells [neutralization of binding (NOB) activity] varies widely among antibody clones. Moreover, in vivo, simultaneous binding of antibodies to distinct epitopes can induce conformational changes and synergies that may be relevant to understanding the anti-HCV immune response. In this study, human recombinant Fabs were generated by affinity-selecting a phage display repertoire library with antibody-coated HCV/E2. These Fabs, which share the same complementarity-determining region DNA sequences, had higher affinity than other anti-HCV/E2 Fabs but showed no NOB activity even at the highest concentrations. Binding of Fabs to HCV/E2 caused conformational changes modifying Fab-binding patterns and reducing, with a negative synergistic effect, Fab-mediated NOB activity. These data suggest that some antibody clones have the potential to modify HCV/E2 conformation and that, in this state, binding of this glycoprotein to its cellular target is less prone to inhibition by some antibody clones. This can explain why high anti-HCV/E2 antibody titers do not directly correlate with protection from infection. Information on the interactions among different antibody clones can contribute to understanding virus-host interplay and developing more effective vaccines.

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