Hepatitis B virus precore protein augments genetic immunizations of the truncated hepatitis C virus core in BALB/c mice.
ABSTRACT DNA immunization has been used to induce either humoral or cellular immune responses against many antigens, including hepatitis C virus (HCV). In addition, DNA immunizations can be enhanced or modulated at the nucleotide level. Genetic immunizations were examined in BALB/c mice through the use of plasmids and chimeric DNA constructs encoding HCV core proteins and hepatitis B virus (HBV) precore (preC) regions. Plasmids encoding the truncated HCV core induced potent humoral and cellular responses to HCV; pcDNA3.0A-C154 produced a stronger antibody response than pcDNA3.0A-C191 (P < 0.01) and pcDNA3.0A-C69 (P < 0.05). HBV preC enhanced the humoral and cellular immune responses of BALB/c mice to HCV; however, pcDNA3.0A-C69preC resulted in a weak cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) response. In addition, the humoral and cellular immune responses to HCV of groups immunized with pcDNA3.0A-C154preC and pcDNA3.0A-C191preC plasmids were higher than those of groups immunized with pcDNA3.0A-C154 and pcDNA3.0A-C191. In vivo CTL responses verified that mice immunized with preC core fused DNAs showed significantly high specific lysis compared with mice immunized with HCV cores only (P < 0.01). In our study, pcDNA3.0A-C154preC led to the highest immune response among all DNA constructs. Conclusion: DNA that encodes truncated HCV core proteins may lead to increased immune responses in vivo, and these responses may be enhanced by HBV preC.