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Hepatology. 1996 Oct;24(4):790-5.

T- and B-cell responses to different hepatitis C virus antigens in patients with chronic hepatitis C infection and in healthy anti-hepatitis C virus--positive blood donors without viremia.

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Department of Internal Medicine, University of Bonn, Germany.


As the host's immune response may determine the course of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection, we studied the humoral and cellular immune responses to HCV-related antigens in subjects with different outcomes of HCV infection. Lymphoproliferative responses and circulating antibodies to a panel of HCV core- and E1-related 25-mer peptides were examined in 10 healthy anti-HCV-seropositive blood donors (group A) and in 29 patients with chronic hepatitis C (group B). In addition, cellular recognition of recombinant HCV proteins (core, NS3, NS4A, NS5A, NS5B) were investigated. In group A, stronger T-cell responses were detected against both HCV proteins (core, P = .03; NS4, P = .005; NS5B, P = .03) and peptides. Proliferation was induced by the same peptides in each group, defining at least five distinctive epitopes within core (amino acids [aa] of 20-44, aa 39-63, aa 79-103, aa 118-152 and aa 148-172) and three regions within E1(aa 198-252, aa 308-372, and aa 368-392). Subjects with strong T-cell responses had low or no detectable levels of peptide-specific antibodies, and vice versa. In particular, T-cell responses were more common in group A; B-cell responses were more common in group B. From our data, we conclude that a benign course of HCV infection may be the consequence of the effective activation of T-helper lymphocytes.

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