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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1988 Mar;85(5):1610-4.

Hepatitis B synthetic immunogen comprised of nucleocapsid T-cell sites and an envelope B-cell epitope.

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Department of Molecular Biology, Research Institute of Scripps Clinic, La Jolla, CA 92037.


Previous studies located T-cell recognition of the nucleocapsid of the hepatitis B virus (HBcAg) to residues 120-140 in mice bearing the H-2s or H-2b haplotypes. Herein, we demonstrate that B10.S (H-2s) and B10 (H-2b) H-2 congenic strains recognize distinct T-cell sites within the p120-140 (a synthetic peptide corresponding to residues 120-140 of HBcAg) sequence defined by p120-131 and p129-140, respectively. Peptide p120-131 stimulates B10.S HBcAg-primed T cells, and reciprocally p120-131-primed T cells recognize HBcAg. Similarly, the p129-140 sequence is a T-cell recognition site relevant to the native HBcAg in the B10 strain. It is also shown that these 12-residue peptides efficiently prime T-helper cells, which are capable of eliciting antibody production to HBcAg in vivo. These observations prompted us to examine the ability of the HBcAg-specific p120-140 sequence to function as a T-cell carrier moiety as a component of a totally synthetic hepatitis B vaccine. For this purpose a synthetic B-cell epitope from the pre-S(2) region (p133-140) of the viral envelope was chosen because this sequence represents a dominant antibody-binding site of the envelope. Immunization of B10.S and B10 strains with the synthetic composite peptide c120-140-(133-140) elicited anti-peptide antibody production, which was crossreactive with the native viral envelope. Furthermore, c120-140-(133-140) immunization primed p120-131-specific T cells in the B10.S strain and p129-140-specific T cells in the B10 strain, which recognized HBcAg and provided T-helper cell function for anti-envelope antibody production in vivo. These results demonstrate the feasibility of constructing complex synthetic immunogens that represent multiple proteins of a pathogen and are capable of engaging both T and B cells relevant to the native antigens.

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