Regulatory T cell markers are increased in chronically infected individuals with the hepatitis C virus (HCV), but to date, the induction and maintenance of Tregs in HCV infection has not been clearly defined. In this paper, we demonstrate that naturally occurring viral variants suppress T cell responses to cognate NS3358-375 in an antigen-specific manner. Of four archetypal variants, S370P induced regulatory T cell markers in comparison to NS3 358-375-stimulated CD4 T cells. Further, the addition of variant-specific CD4 T cells back into a polyclonal culture in a dose-dependent manner inhibited the T cell response. These results suggest that HCV is able to induce antigen-specific regulatory T cells to suppress the antiviral T cell response in an antigen-specific manner, thus contributing to a niche within the host that could be conducive to HCV persistence.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Allergy