Optimized hepatitis C virus (HCV) e2 glycoproteins and their immunogenicity in combination with MVA-HCV

María Q. Marín, Kwinten Sliepen, Juan García-Arriaza, Sylvie M. Koekkoek, Patricia Pérez, Carlos Óscar S. Sorzano, Carmen E. Gómez, Rogier W. Sanders, Mariano Esteban

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Hepatitis C virus (HCV) represents a major global health challenge and an efficient vaccine is urgently needed. Many HCV vaccination strategies employ recombinant versions of the viral E2 glycoprotein. However, recombinant E2 readily forms disulfide-bonded aggregates that might not be optimally suited for vaccines. Therefore, we have designed an E2 protein in which we strategically changed eight cysteines to alanines (E2.C8A). E2.C8A formed predominantly monomers and virtually no aggregates. Furthermore, E2.C8A also interacted more efficiently with broadly neutralizing antibodies than conventional E2. We used mice to evaluate different prime/boost immunization strategies involving a modified vaccinia virus Ankara (MVA) expressing the nearly full-length genome of HCV (MVA-HCV) in combination with either the E2 aggregates or the E2.C8A monomers. The combined MVA-HCV/E2 aggregates prime/boost strategy markedly enhanced HCV-specific effector memory CD4+ T cell responses and antibody levels compared to MVA-HCV/MVA-HCV. Moreover, the aggregated form of E2 induced higher levels of anti-E2 antibodies in vaccinated mice than E2.C8A monomers. These antibodies were cross-reactive and mainly of the IgG1 isotype. Our findings revealed how two E2 viral proteins that differ in their capacity to form aggregates are able to enhance to different extent the HCV-specific cellular and humoral immune responses, either alone or in combination with MVA-HCV. These combined protocols of MVA-HCV/E2 could serve as a basis for the development of a more effective HCV vaccine.
Original languageEnglish
Article number440
Pages (from-to)1-25
Number of pages25
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2020


  • Antibodies
  • CD4 and CD8 T cells
  • Cysteines
  • Disulfide bonds
  • E2 protein
  • HCV
  • Immune responses
  • MVA
  • Mice
  • Vaccine

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