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Keywords:

  • HLA-DR;
  • HBsAg;
  • peptide presentation;
  • T cell response

Summary

The aim of this study was to investigate the underlying mechanisms of the genetic association between certain HLA-DRB1* alleles and the immune response to HBsAg vaccination. Therefore, HBsAg peptide binding to HLA-DR molecules was measured in vitro by peptide binding ELISAs. Additionally, HBsAg-specific T cell reaction and cytokine profile of immune response were analysed ex vivo in ELISPOT assays and DR-restriction of T-cell proliferative responses was investigated with HBsAg specific T cell clones. In addition, we compared HBsAg specific T cell responses of 24 monozygotic and 3 dizygotic twin pairs after HBsAg vaccination. Our results showed that the peptide binding assays did not reflect antigen presentation in vivo. DR alleles associated with vaccination failure like DRB1*0301 and 0701 efficiently presented HBsAg peptides. In 11 of 24 investigated monozygotic twin pairs we observed pronounced differences in the recognition of HBsAg peptides. This study indicates that HLA–DR associations with HBsAg vaccination response are not caused by differences in peptide binding or by a shift in the Th1/Th2 profile. Our findings strongly argue for differences in the T cell recognition of peptide/MHC complexes as the critical event in T cell responsiveness to HBsAg.