Hepatitis B virus core protein virus-like particles (HBc-VLPs) act as a strong immunogen and are suitable for uptake by dendritic cells (DCs), in which they directly promote DC maturation and migration. To illustrate the utility of global proteomic analysis techniques in elucidating the molecular events that are altered in HBc-VLP-pulsed bone marrow-derived DCs (BMDCs) and to gain a better understanding of the molecular mechanisms of capture and processing of HBc-VLP-pulsed BMDCs, an antigen (Ag) delivery system based on HBc-VLP-pulsed BMDCs was developed. Two-dimensional electrophoresis (2-DE) and tandem mass spectrometry (MS/MS) analyses were utilized to analyze the differential protein expression patterns between HBc-VLP-pulsed and untreated BMDCs. Protein spots with significantly altered expression levels were detected, identified and validated. The results showed that exogenous HBc-VLPs were phagocytosed efficiently by BMDCs and enhanced the efficacy of BMDC maturation and Ag presentation, VLPs also induced high levels of Ag-specific CD8+ T cells that displayed high cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) activity in vivo. Several differentially expressed proteins, including growth factor receptor bound protein 2 (Grb2) and annexin A2 (AnxA2), were detected by proteomic analysis, identified by mass spectrometry and validated by western blot.
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