• viral load;
  • conformational epitopes;
  • genotype;
  • vaccinia virus;
  • human


The genotype of hepatitis C virus (HCV) can profoundly affect the success of antiviral therapy for HCV infection. A possible contributing factor is a varied immune response elicited by infection with different HCV genotypes. In this study, full-length E2 proteins of HCV genotypes 1a, 1b, 2a, and 2b were used to determine the fraction of the humoral immune response to HCV E2 that is genotype specific. Greater than 90% of all infected individuals had serum antibodies to the four E2 proteins. Overall, individuals infected with genotype 1a or 1b were characterized by variable immune responses to HCV E2 with relatively high amounts of cross-reactivity with other E2 proteins. Individuals infected with genotype 2a or 2b exhibited a strong preferential reactivity to genotype 2a and 2b E2 proteins. Individuals with elevated titers to HCV E2 were more likely to be infected with genotype 2a and had a significantly lower median viral load. These findings indicate that the antibody response to HCV E2 is affected by the genotype of the virus and that induction of a strong humoral immune response to HCV E2 may contribute to a decreased viral load. J. Med. Virol. 65:23–29, 2001. © 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.