Recombinant in vitro assembled hepatitis C virus core particles induce strong specific immunity enhanced by formulation with an oil-based adjuvant
In the present work, immunogenicity of recombinant in vitro assembled hepatitis C virus core particles, HCcAg.120-VLPs, either alone or in combination with different adjuvants was evaluated in BALB/c mice. HCcAg.120-VLPs induced high titers of anti-HCcAg.120 antibodies and virus-specific cellular immune responses. Particularly, HCcAg.120-VLPs induced specific delayed type hypersensitivity, and generated a predominant T helper 1 cytokine pro file in immunized mice. In addition, HCcAg.120-VLPs prime splenocytes proliferate in vitro against different HCcAg.120-specific peptides, depending on either the immunization route or the adjuvant used. Remarkably, immunization with HCcAg.120-VLPs/Montanide ISA888 formulation resulted in a significant control of vaccinia virus titer in mice after challenge with a recombinant vaccinia virus expressing HCV core protein, vvCore. Animals immunized with this formulation had a marked increase in the number of IFN-γ producing spleen cells, after stimulation with P815 cells infected with vvCore. These results suggest the use of recombinant HCV core particles as components of therapeutic or preventive vaccine candidates against HCV.