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Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is the etiologic agent of chronic liver disease, hepatitis C. Spontaneous resolution of viral infection is associated with vigorous HLA class I- and class II-restricted T cell responses to multiple viral epitopes. Unfortunately, only 20% of patients clear infection spontaneously, most develop chronic disease and require therapy. The response to chemotherapy varies, however; therapeutic vaccination offers an additional treatment strategy. To date, therapeutic vaccines have demonstrated only limited success. Vector-mediated vaccination with multi-epitope-expressing DNA constructs alone or in combination with chemotherapy offers an additional treatment approach. Gene sequences encoding validated HLA-A2- and HLA-DRB1-restricted epitopes were synthesized and cloned into an expression vector. Dendritic cells (DCs) derived from humanized, HLA-A2/DRB1 transgenic (donor) mice were transfected with these multi-epitope-expressing DNA constructs. Recipient HLA-A2/DRB1 mice were vaccinated s.c. with transfected DCs; control mice received non-transfected DCs. Peptide-specific IFN-γ production by splenic T cells obtained at 5 weeks post-immunization was quantified by ELISpot assay; additionally, the production of IL-4, IL-10 and TNF-α were quantified by cytokine bead array. Splenocytes derived from vaccinated HLA-A2/DRB1 transgenic mice exhibited peptide-specific cytokine production to the vast majority of the vaccine-encoded HLA class I- and class II-restricted T cell epitopes. A multi-epitope-based HCV vaccine that targets DCs offers an effective approach to inducing a broad immune response and viral clearance in chronic, HCV-infected patients.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.