Hepat Res Treat. 2014;2014:860562. doi: 10.1155/2014/860562. Epub 2014 May 26.
Approximately 370 million people worldwide are chronically infected with hepatitis B virus (HBV). Despite the success of the prophylactic HBV vaccine, no therapeutic vaccine or other immunotherapy modality is available for treatment of chronically infected individuals. Clearance of HBV depends on robust, sustained CD8(+) T activity; however, the limited numbers of therapeutic vaccines tested have not induced such a response. Most of these vaccines have relied on peptide prediction algorithms to identify MHC-I epitopes or characterization of T cell responses during acute infection. Here, we took an immunoproteomic approach to characterize MHC-I restricted epitopes from cells chronically infected with HBV and therefore more likely to represent the true targets of CD8(+) T cells during chronic infection. In this study, we identified eight novel MHC-I restricted epitopes derived from a broad range of HBV proteins that were capable of activating CD8(+) T cells. Furthermore, five of the eight epitopes were able to bind HLA-A2 and A24 alleles and activated HBV specific T cell responses. These epitopes also have potential as new tools to characterize T cell immunity in chronic HBV infection and may serve as candidate antigens for a therapeutic vaccine against HBV infection.