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Hepatitis C virus (HCV) chronic infection is characterized by low or undetectable cellular immune responses against HCV antigens. Some studies have suggested that HCV proteins manipulate the immune system by suppressing the specific antiviral T-cell immunity. We have previously reported that the expression of HCV core and E1 proteins (CE1) in dendritic cells (DC) impairs their ability to prime T cells in vitro. We show here that immunization of mice with immature DC transduced with an adenovirus encoding HCV core and E1 antigens (AdCE1) induced lower CD4(+)- and CD8(+)-T-cell responses than immunization with DC transduced with an adenovirus encoding NS3 (AdNS3). However, no differences in the strength of the immune response were detected when animals were immunized with mature DC subsequently transduced with AdCE1 or AdNS3. According to these findings, we observed that the expression of CE1 in DC inhibited the maturation caused by tumor necrosis factor alpha or CD40L but not that induced by lipopolysaccharide. Blockade of DC maturation by CE1 was manifested by a lower expression of maturation surface markers and was associated with a reduced ability of AdCE1-transduced DC to activate CD4(+)- and CD8(+)-T-cell responses in vivo. Our results suggest that HCV CE1 proteins modulate T-cell responses by decreasing the stimulatory ability of DC in vivo via inhibition of their physiological maturation pathways. These findings are relevant for the design of therapeutic vaccination strategies in HCV-infected patients.

Original publication




Journal article


Journal of virology

Publication Date





10862 - 10871


Division of Hepatology and Gene Therapy, Fundación para la Investigación Médica Aplicada (FIMA), University of Navarra, 31008 Pamplona, Spain.


Dendritic Cells, CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes, T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic, Animals, Mice, Inbred BALB C, Mice, Inbred C57BL, Mice, Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha, CD40 Ligand, Viral Nonstructural Proteins, Viral Core Proteins, Viral Envelope Proteins, Immunization, Immune Tolerance