A supreme vaccine for Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection should elicit strong Th1-oriented cellular responses. In the absence of a Th1-specific adjuvant, immunizations by protein antigens generally induce Th2-type and weak cellular responses.
To evaluate the adjuvant effect of BCG in comparison with nonionic copolymer-Pluronic F127 (F127) as a classic adjuvant in the formulation of HCV core protein (HCVcp) as a candidate vaccine for induction of Th1 immune responses.
Materials and Methods
Expression of N-terminally His-Tagged HCVcp (1-122) by pIVEX2.4a-core vector harboring the corresponding gene under the control of arabinose-inducible (araBAD) promoter was achieved in BL21-AI strain of E.coli and purified through application of nitrilotriacetic acid (Ni-NTA) chromatography. Mice were immunized subcutaneously (s.c.) in base of the tail with 100 μl of immunogen (F127+HCVcp or BCG+HCVcp; 5 μgHCVcp/mouse/dose) or control formulations (PBS, BCG, F127) at weeks 0, 3, 6. Total and subtypes of IgG, as well as cellular immune responses (Proliferation, In vivo CTL and IFN-γ/IL-4 ELISpot assays against a strong and dominant H2-d restricted, CD8+-epitopic peptide, core 39-48; RRGPRLGVRA of HCVcp) were compared in each group of immunized animals.
Expression and purification of core protein around the expected size (21 kDa) was confirmed by Western blotting. The HCVcp + BCG vaccinated mice showed significantly higher lymphocyte proliferation and IFN-γ production but lower levels of cell lysis (45% versus 62% in CTL assay) than the HCVcp+F127 immunized animals. “Besides, total anti-core IgG and IgG1 levels were significantly higher in HCVcp + F127 immunized mice as compared to HCVcp + BCG vaccinated animals, indicating relatively higher efficacy of F127 for the stimulation of humoral and Th2-oriented immune responses”.
Results showed that HCVcp + BCG induced a moderate CTL and mixed Th1/Th2 immune responses with higher levels of cell proliferation and IFN-γ secretion, indicating that BCG may have a better outcome when formulated in HCVcp-based subunit vaccines.