Analysis of intrahepatic HBV-specific cytotoxic T-cells during and after acute HBV infection in humans

Dave Sprengers, Renate G van der Molen, Johannes G Kusters, Robert A De Man, Hubert G M Niesters, Solko W Schalm, Harry L A Janssen
Journal of Hepatology 2006, 45 (2): 182-9

BACKGROUND/AIMS: Characteristics of the intrahepatic virus-specific T-cell response in patients with acute hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection have not been studied due to the risk of complications associated with standard liver biopsies. In this study we aimed to characterize the virus-specific CD8 + T-cell response in the liver of patients with acute HBV infection using fine-needle aspiration-biopsy (FNAB).

METHODS: In HLA-A2 positive patients with acute HBV infection a FNAB was performed at first presentation, at the time of HBsAg-seroconversion and 3 months after HBsAg-seroconversion. HLA-A2 tetramers were used to identify HBV-specific CD8 + T-cells in FNAB-cytology and peripheral blood (PB).

RESULTS: At first presentation there was a correlation between the frequency of intrahepatic CD8 + T-cells and the degree of liver damage. At all time points there was sequestering of HBV-specific CD8 + T-cells in the liver, and the percentage of intrahepatic HLA-DR expressing HBV-specific CD8 + T-cells was higher than in PB. Three months after HBsAg-seroconversion the frequency of intrahepatic HBV-specific CD8 + T-cells remained high.

CONCLUSIONS: HBV-specific CD8 + T-cells are compartmentalized in the liver during acute HBV infection. Their presence in the liver may suggest a role in the resolution of the infection. Intrahepatic HBV-specific CD8 + T cells remain detectable at high frequencies after HBsAg-seroconversion.

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