Clinical and experimental evidence indicates that the hepatitis C virus (HCV) E2 glycoprotein (HCV/E2) is the most promising candidate for the development of an effective anti-HCV vaccine. Identification of the human epitopes that are conserved among isolates and are able to elicit protective antibodies would constitute a significant step forward. This work describes the mapping of the B-cell epitopes present on the surface of HCV/E2, as recognized by the immune system during infection, by the analysis of the reciprocal interactions of a panel of human recombinant Fabs derived from an HCV-infected patient. Three unrelated epitopes recognized by antibodies with no neutralization-of-binding (NOB) activity were identified; a fourth, major epitope was defined as a clustering of minor epitopes recognized by Fabs endowed with strong NOB activity.
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