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Broadly neutralizing antibodies from an individual that naturally cleared multiple hepatitis C virus infections uncover molecular determinants for E2 targeting and vaccine design

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Cumulative evidence supports a role for neutralizing antibodies contributing to spontaneous viral clearance during acute hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. Information on the timing and specificity of the B cell response associated with clearance is crucial to inform vaccine design. From an individual who cleared three sequential HCV infections with genotypes 1b, 1a and 3a strains, respectively, we employed peripheral B cells to isolate and characterize neutralizing human monoclonal antibodies (HMAbs) to HCV after the genotype 1 infections. The majority of isolated antibodies, designated as HMAbs 212, target conformational epitopes on the envelope glycoprotein E2 and bound broadly to genotype 1-6 E1E2 proteins. Further, some of these antibodies showed neutralization potential against cultured genotype 1-6 viruses. Competition studies with defined broadly neutralizing HCV HMAbs to epitopes in distinct clusters, designated antigenic domains B, C, D and E, revealed that the selected HMAbs compete with B, C and D HMAbs, previously isolated from subjects with chronic HCV infections. Epitope mapping studies revealed domain B and C specificity of these HMAbs 212. Sequential serum samples from the studied subject inhibited the binding of HMAbs 212 to autologous E2 and blocked a representative domain D HMAb. The specificity of this antibody response appears similar to that observed during chronic infection, suggesting that the timing and affinity maturation of the antibody response are the critical determinants in successful and repeated viral clearance. While additional studies should be performed for individuals with clearance or persistence of HCV, our results define epitope determinants for antibody E2 targeting with important implications for the development of a B cell vaccine.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1007772
JournalPLoS pathogens
Volume15
Issue number5
ISSN1553-7366
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2019

ID: 57192547