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J Gen Virol. 1997 Oct;78 ( Pt 10):2639-45.

Altered antigenicity of 'a' determinant variants of hepatitis B virus.

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Division of Epidemiology and Public Health, Institute of Biomedical Sciences, Academia Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan.


The 'a' determinant of hepatitis B virus (HBV) surface antigen (HBsAg) is the most important target for diagnosis and immunoprophylaxis. Several HBV variants with point mutations within the 'a' determinant have been identified among fully vaccinated children in Taiwan. We investigated the effect of each of these mutations on the antigenic nature of the S protein by cloning and expression of the mutant S antigens in Pichia pastoris. Four variants, Ser-126, His-129, Arg-129 and Arg-145, all exhibited various degrees of altered binding of HBsAg to several monoclonal antibodies. Arg-145, a well-characterized immune escape mutant, and Arg-129 had the lowest binding capacities to all monoclonal antibodies as compared with other variants. Similar to Arg-145, the Arg-129 variant could be isolated from both vaccinated children and unvaccinated adults, thus representing a naturally occurring mutant with an altered 'a' determinant. Whether these 'a' determinant variants with altered antigenicity might gradually become major circulating strains, as a consequence of the immune pressure against the wild-type HBV created by vaccination, remains to be monitored.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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