Although DNA immunization is a safe and efficient method for inducing cellular immune responses, it generates relatively weak and slow immune responses. Here, we investigated the effect of hepatitis C virus (HCV) antigen modifications on the induction of T-cell responses in DNA immunization. It is likely that the strength of T-cell responses has an inverse relationship with the length of the insert DNA. Interestingly, a mixture of several plasmids carrying each gene induced a higher level of T-cell responses than a single plasmid expressing a long polyprotein. Moreover, the presence of a transmembrane domain in HCV E2 resulted in stronger T-cell responses against E2 protein than its absence. Taken together, our results indicate that the tailored modifications of DNA-encoded antigens are capable of optimizing the induction of T-cell responses which is required for eliminating the cells chronically infected with highly variable viruses such as HCV and human immunodeficiency virus
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