Strong and multi-antigen specific immunity by hepatitis B core antigen (HBcAg)-based vaccines in a murine model of chronic hepatitis B: HBcAg is a candidate for a therapeutic vaccine against hepatitis B virus.

Research paper by Sheikh Mohammad Fazle SM Akbar, Shiyi S Chen, Mamun M Al-Mahtab, Masanori M Abe, Yoichi Y Hiasa, Morikazu M Onji

Indexed on: 14 Aug '12Published on: 14 Aug '12Published in: Antiviral Research


Experimental evidence suggests that hepatitis B core antigen (HBcAg)-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL) are essential for the control of hepatitis B virus (HBV) replication and prevention of liver damage in patients with chronic hepatitis B (CHB). However, most immune therapeutic approaches in CHB patients have been accomplished with hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg)-based prophylactic vaccines with unsatisfactory clinical outcomes. In this study, we prepared HBsAg-pulsed dendritic cells (DC) and HBcAg-pulsed DC by culturing spleen DC from HBV transgenic mice (HBV TM) and evaluated the immunomodulatory capabilities of these antigens, which may serve as a better therapy for CHB. The kinetics of HBsAg, antibody levels against HBsAg (anti-HBs), proliferation of HBsAg- and HBcAg-specific lymphocytes, production of antigen-specific CTL, and activation of endogenous DC were compared between HBV TM vaccinated with either HBsAg- or HBcAg-pulsed DC. Vaccination with HBsAg-pulsed DC induced HBsAg-specific immunity, but failed to induce HBcAg-specific immunity in HBV TM. However, immunization of HBV TM with HBcAg-pulsed DC resulted in: (1) HBsAg negativity, (2) production of anti-HBs, and (3) development of HBsAg- and HBcAg-specific T cells and CTL in the spleen and the liver. Additionally, significantly higher levels of activated endogenous DC were detected in HBV TM immunized with HBcAg-pulsed DC compared to HBsAg-pulsed DC (p<0.05). The capacity of HBcAg to modulate both HBsAg- and HBcAg-specific immunity in HBV TM, and activation of endogenous DC in HBV TM without inducing liver damage suggests that HBcAg should be an integral component of the therapeutic vaccine against CHB.