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Keywords:

  • chronic hepatitis B;
  • dendritic cells;
  • hepatitis B virus;
  • polarization;
  • T helper cell

Aim:  Dendritic cells (DCs) pulsed with HBsAg efficiently reverse the immune tolerance to hepatitis B virus (HBV) and induce HBV-specific cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) responses in transgenic mice and healthy volunteers. However, it is not clear whether HBV core antigen (HBcAg)-pulsed DCs can effectively induce CD4+ helper T cells polarization into Th1, which contribute to the induction and maintenance of HBV-specific CD8+ T cells in chronic hepatitis B (CHB) patients. To address this issue, we conducted this study and investigated whether HBcAg-pulsed DCs could polarize Th1 cells and induce an HBcAg-specific CTL response.

Methods:  HBcAg-pulsed DCs were generated from 21 CHB patients. The capacity of the HBcAg-pulsed DC vaccine to stimulate CD4+ and CD8+ T cells to produce IFN-γ and IL-4 was estimated by intercellular cytokine staining, and the HBcAg-pulsed DCs derived from 10 humam leucocyte antigen (HLA)-A2+ CHB patients were tested for the induction of HBV-specific CTLs from autologous T cells by pentamer staining. The cytotoxicity of these CTLs was evaluated in vitro by flow cytometry.

Results:  The HBcAg-pulsed DCs derived from CHB patients exhibited a stronger capacity to stimulate autologous CD4+ and CD8+ T cells to release IFN-γ rather than IL-4, which could induce HBV core 18-27 specific CTLs, suggesting a specific cytotoxicity against T2 cells that had been loaded with the HBV core 18-27 peptide in vitro.

Conclusion:  HBcAg-pulsed DC vaccine derived from CHB patients efficiently induced autologous T cell polarization to Th1 and generation of HBV core 18-27 specific CTLs.