The nonstructural protein NS3 of hepatitis C virus (HCV) possesses two enzymatic domains which are thought to be essential for the virus life cycle: an N-terminal serine-type proteinase, responsible for the processing of nonstructural polypeptides, and a C-terminal nucleoside triphosphatase/helicase, presumably involved in the unwinding of the viral genome. The human antibody response to NS3 usually appears early in the course of HCV infection and is predominantly directed against the carboxyl-terminal portion; however, its fine specificity and clinical significance are largely unknown. We have generated a human monoclonal antibody (hMAb), designated CM3.B6, from a cloned B-cell line obtained from the peripheral blood of a patient with chronic HCV infection, which selectively recognized the purified NS3 protein expressed in bacteria or in eukaryotic cells transfected with full-length or NS3 cDNA. Fine-specificity studies revealed that CM3.B6 recognized a 92-amino-acid sequence (clone 8, amino acids 1363 to 1454) selected from an NS3 DNase fragment library but failed to bind to 12-mer peptides synthesized from the same region, suggesting recognition of a conformational B-cell epitope. Experiments using deletion mutants of clone 8 and competitive inhibition studies using a panel of NS3 peptide-specific murine MAbs indicated that limited N-terminal and C-terminal deletions resulted in a significant reduction of hMAb binding to clone 8, thus identifying a minimal antibody binding domain within clone 8. Competition experiments showed that binding of CM3.B6 to the NS3 protein was efficiently inhibited by 39 of 44 (89%) sera from HCV-infected patients, suggesting that the hMAb recognized an immunodominant epitope within the NS3 region. More importantly, recognition of the sequence defined by CM3.B6 appeared to accurately discriminate between viremic and nonviremic anti-HCV positive sera, suggesting potentially relevant clinical applications in the diagnosis and treatment of HCV infection.
|Number of pages||8|
|Journal||Journal of Virology|
|Publication status||Published - Aug 1994|