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Eur J Immunol. 1997 Jul;27(7):1782-7.

Impaired induction of cytotoxic T lymphocytes by antagonism of a weak agonist borne by a variant hepatitis C virus epitope.

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Jichi Medical School, Tochigi, Japan.


An epitope that acted as a weak agonist in the cytotoxicity assay was identified as part of the capsid protein of a hepatitis C virus (HCV) variant. In a low concentration, the variant epitope also had a weak antagonistic effect. When a minute amount of this variant epitope was added to the culture for induction, it selectively attenuated the expansion of major cytotoxic T cell populations and drastically reduced the cytotoxic responses against the wild-type epitope. Thus, antagonism to induction suppressed immune responses against both the wild type and the variant, thereby helping the persistence of not only variant itself but also the wild-type HCV. Because this variant was a weak agonist, most cytotoxic T cells induced with the wild-type epitope were cross-reactive with the variant and susceptible to the antagonism to induction. Only the T cells which were not cross-reactive with the variant and not susceptible to the antagonism survived the antagonism in induction. This implied that the specificity of the remaining immune response, if any, was directed exclusively to the wild-type epitope after the emergence of the variant. For viruses like HCV, being heterogeneous itself may contribute significantly toward persistent infection through antagonism to induction.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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