Hepatitis B virus polymerase-specific T cell epitopes shift in a mouse model of chronic infection

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Background: Chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection (CHB) is a significant public health problem that could benefit from treatment with immunomodulators. Here we describe a set of therapeutic HBV vaccines that target the internal viral proteins. Methods: Vaccines are delivered by chimpanzee adenovirus vectors (AdC) of serotype 6 (AdC6) and 7 (AdC7) used in prime only or prime-boost regimens. The HBV antigens are fused into an early T cell checkpoint inhibitor, herpes simplex virus (HSV) glycoprotein D (gD), which enhances and broadens vaccine-induced cluster of differentiation (CD8)+ T cell responses. Results: Our results show that the vaccines are immunogenic in mice. They induce potent CD8+ T cell responses that recognize multiple epitopes. CD8+ T cell responses increase after a boost, although the breadth remains similar. In mice, which carry high sustained loads of HBV particles due to a hepatic infection with an adeno-associated virus (AAV)8 vector expressing the 1.3HBV genome, CD8+ T cell responses to the vaccines are attenuated with a marked shift in the CD8+ T cells’ epitope recognition profile. Conclusions: Our data show that in different stains of mice including those that carry a human major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I antigen HBV vaccines adjuvanted with a checkpoint inhibitor induce potent and broad HBV-specific CD8+ T cell responses and lower but still detectable CD4+ T cell responses. CD8+ T cell responses are reduced and their epitope specificity changes in mice that are chronically exposed to HBV antigens. Implications for the design of therapeutic HBV vaccines are discussed.




Hasanpourghadi, M., Novikov, M., Newman, D., Xiang, Z. Q., Zhou, X. Y., Magowan, C., & Ertl, H. C. J. (2021). Hepatitis B virus polymerase-specific T cell epitopes shift in a mouse model of chronic infection. Virology Journal, 18(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12985-021-01712-y

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