Hepatitis C virus (HCV) antigens in liver biopsy have been detected by immunohistochemistry using both spontaneous human IgG and murine monoclonal or rabbit polyclonal monospecific reagents. Conflicting results have been obtained in different studies. This was probably because of the incapacity of single experimental antibodies, raised against synthetic or recombinant peptides, to recognize native tissue antigens. To overcome this possibility, we immunopurified monospecific spontaneous polyclonal human Ig, therefore induced by native antigens, from the single antigen-containing bands of RIBA 3 strips. Antibodies to c100, c33, c22, and NS5 antigens were obtained from the serum of a patient affected by chronic hepatitis C. The IgG fraction of this serum had proved to stain tissue HCV antigens. Eight biopsies were selected on the basis of strong hepatocellular reactivity with the whole IgG fraction in a variable number (from 5% to 75%) of cells. The four antigens were detected in all biopsies; a clear cellular codistribution was observed on serial sections. These data demonstrate that the possibility to identify HCV antigens in liver biopsies is higher when using human antibodies induced by native antigens rather then experimental antibodies. The approach of immunopurification of human antibodies can be extended to other HCV-related epitopes to obtain reagents useful for the selection and optimization of monoclonal or polyclonal antibodies. © 1995.
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