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Clin Exp Immunol. 1996 Jul;105(1):52-8.

Regulation of the neutralizing anti-hepatitis B surface (HBs) antibody response in vitro in HBs vaccine recipients and patients with acute or chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection.

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Department of Internal Medicine, Johannes-Gutenberg University, Mainz, Germany.


Antibodies directed to the HBs antigen indicate viral clearance and the development of life-long immunity in patients that recovered from HBV infection. In HBs antigen vaccine recipients anti-HBs antibodies provide protective immunity. However, little is known about the regulation of this HBs-specific antibody response. The existence of anti-HBs-secreting B cells was demonstrated using the highly sensitive ELISPOT technique compared with conventional ELISA in serum and cell culture supernatants. In the peripheral blood of patients with acute self-limited hepatitis B, HBs-specific B cells were demonstrated with a high frequency despite undetectable anti-HBs serum antibodies. HBV-immunized patients that had recovered from infection and vaccine recipients had significantly lower frequencies, whereas chronic HBV carriers and negative controls showed no anti-HBs-secreting B cells. Coculture experiments of isolated B and T cells revealed that the anti-HBs antibody response was restricted to the presence of T helper cells, but not to identical HLA class II molecules. Allogeneic T cells derived from vaccine recipients or chronic HBV carriers stimulated the HBs-specific B cell response in HBs vaccine recipients. Otherwise, isolated T helper cells could never provide sufficient help to induce the HBs-specific B cell responses in chronic HBV carriers. Furthermore, peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) of six out of 10 vaccine recipients, one out of five HBV-immunized patients, but of no chronic HBV carrier showed a proliferative response to different HBs antigen preparations. This study demonstrated a high frequency of circulating anti-HBs-producing B cells in the early phase of acute HBV infection, but a lower frequency of HBs-specific B cells years after resolution of HBV infection. In chronic HBV carriers. However, deficient HBs-specific T and B cell responses were observed.

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