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Gastroenterology. 1998 Oct;115(4):954-65.

Hepatitis C virus variants circumventing cytotoxic T lymphocyte activity as a mechanism of chronicity.

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Liver Research Unit, Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, Chang Gung University College of Medicine, Taipei, Taiwan.



High rate of chronicity after acute hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection cannot be explained in the presence of a multispecific cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) response. The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of virus variants on CTL activity in patients in whom chronicity developed.


CTL clones specific to a decapeptide epitope derived from hypervariable region 1 were generated from 5 HLA-A2-positive patients with acute hepatitis C by in vitro stimulation with synthetic peptides. The sequential change of this CTL epitope and its influence on the CTL recognition were examined.


Virus variants did not appear in 3 patients with recovery, whereas variants with altered peptide ligands capable of antagonizing CTL activity emerged rapidly in the remaining 2 patients in whom chronicity developed. Importantly, these HLA-A2-restricted, hypervariable region 1-specific CTL clones shared the use of T-cell receptor (TCR) genes AV6 and BV17.


These data suggest that there is only a narrow T-cell repertoire responding to a single viral peptide/HLA ligand. The emergence of HCV variants with altered peptide ligands as TCR antagonists accompanied by a limited TCR repertoire may provide a mechanism for HCV chronicity.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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