Hepatitis C virus (HCV) often causes persistent infection despite the presence of neutralizing antibodies against the virus in the sera of hepatitis C patients. HCV infects both hepatocytes and B cells through the binding of its envelope glycoprotein E2 to CD81, the putative viral receptor. Previously, we have shown that E2-CD81 interaction induces hypermutation of heavy-chain immunoglobulin (VH) in B cells. We hypothesize that if HCV infects antibody-producing B cells, the resultant hypermutation of VH may lower the affinity and specificity of the HCV-specific antibodies, enabling HCV to escape from immune surveillance. To test this hypothesis, we infected human hybridoma clones producing either neutralizing or non-neutralizing anti-E2 or anti-E1 antibodies with a lymphotropic HCV (SB strain). All of the hybridoma clones, except for a neutralizing antibody-producing hybridoma, could be infected with HCV and support virus replication for at least 8 weeks after infection. The VH sequences in the infected hybridomas had a significantly higher mutation frequency than those in the uninfected hybridomas, with mutations concentrating in complementarity-determining region 3. These mutations lowered the antibody affinity against the targeting protein and also lowered the virus-neutralizing activity of anti-E2 antibodies. Furthermore, antibody-mediated complement-dependent cytotoxicity with the antibodies secreted from the HCV-infected hybridomas was impaired. These results suggest that HCV infection could cause some anti-HCV-antibody-producing hybridoma B cells to make less-protective antibodies.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Insect Science