, Volume 148, Issue 3, pp 435-448

CpG immuno-stimulatory motifs enhance humoral immune responses against hepatitis C virus core protein after DNA-based immunization

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Summary.

 Chronic HCV infection is associated with a high morbidity and mortality rate, and currently a prophylactic or therapeutic vaccine is not available. DNA-based immunization is a powerful method to generate cellular and humoral immune responses. However, DNA immunization against HCV core results only in a weak humoral immune response demonstrated in several studies. Therefore, co-immunization with a novel adjuvant may enhance such potentially important immune responses. We examined whether unmethylated CpG motifs in the form of oligodeoxynucleotides (ODN) or E. coli DNA can act as adjuvants for a DNA vaccination approach, since CpG motifs have been shown to stimulate the innate immune system as well as B and T cell immune reactivity. The present study demonstrates that CpG motifs enhance in vivo antibody levels after DNA immunization against HCV core. However, despite some in vitro activity of CpG motifs, no enhancement of T cell responses in vivo was observed after immunization with HCV plasmid DNA and CpG motifs in mice. Our results suggest that co-immunization with CpG-ODN may strengthen humoral immune responses but show no potential effect as an adjuvant to induce cellular immunity against HCV core.

Received July 24, 2002; accepted October 9, 2002