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Hepatology. 2002 May;35(5):1225-36.

Intrahepatic and circulating HLA class II-restricted, hepatitis C virus-specific T cells: functional characterization in patients with chronic hepatitis C.

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Laboratorio di Immunopatologia Virale, Divisione Malattie Infettive, Azienda Ospedaliera di Parma, Parma, Italy.


To compare the functional features of circulating and intrahepatic hepatitis C virus (HCV)-specific CD4+ T cells in chronic HCV infection, peripheral blood and liver-infiltrating lymphocytes from 29 patients with chronic hepatitis C were stimulated with structural and nonstructural HCV proteins to produce antigen-specific T-cell lines and clones. Antigen specificity, fine specificity, phenotype, cytokine production, and T-cell receptor (TCR)-vbeta chain expression were analyzed. The results indicate a hierarchy of stimulatory capacity by the different HCV proteins, core being the antigen most frequently recognized by CD4+ intrahepatic lymphocytes, followed by NS4 and NS5. The CD4 response was directed simultaneously against different HCV proteins in individual patients, but fine-specificity analysis indicated that the response was generally focused on a limited number of immunodominant epitopes. Although the narrowly focused nature of this response may favor the emergence of escape mutations, this event was not observed by following-up over time the sequence of 2 epitopes strongly immunodominant for intrahepatic CD4 cells of a patient with chronic HCV infection. In conclusion, simultaneous analysis of peripheral blood and intrahepatic CD4 cells in the same patients indicated a predominant Th1 profile of HCV-specific CD4 cells and suggests a specific compartmentalization of virus-specific T cells into the liver.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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