CTLs are thought to be major effectors for clearing viruses in acute infections including hepatitis B virus (HBV). Persistent HBV infection is characterized by a lack of or a weak CTL response to HBV, which is thought to reflect tolerance to HBV antigens. In the present study, we found that alpha-galactosylceramide (α-GalCer), a ligand for Vα14-positive NKT cells, strongly enhanced the induction and proliferation of HBV-specific CTLs by HBsAg. In HBsAg transgenic mice, which are thought to be tolerant to HBV-encoded antigens, administration of HBsAg or α-GalCer alone failed to induce HBsAg-specific CTLs, but they were induced by co-administration of both compounds. Furthermore, by limiting dilution analysis, we confirmed the existence of HBsAg-specific CTL precursors in the HBsAg transgenic mice immunized with HBsAg and α-GalCer. A blocking experiment using antibodies to cytokines and CD40 ligand showed that IL-2 and CD40-CD40L interaction mediate the enhancement of CTL induction caused by α-GalCer through NKT cell activation. Our results may open up a new method for clearing the virus from patients with persistent HBV infection.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Immunology and Allergy