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Transplantation. 1992 Apr;53(4):894-8.

Modulation of hepatitis B viral antigen expression by immunosuppressive drugs in primary hepatocyte culture.

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  • 1Institute of Liver Studies, King's College School of Medicine and Dentistry, London, United Kingdom.


In one pattern of hepatitis B virus (HBV) recurrence following orthotopic liver transplantation--namely, fibrosing cholestatic hepatitis (FCH), the intrahepatic expression of HBV antigens was found to be markedly increased, suggesting that HBV may be directly cytopathic to the liver cells. Understanding how immunosuppressive drugs influence HBV may be of considerable clinical relevance in the treatment of patients with chronic HBV infection after liver transplantation. To determine how these drugs influence intrahepatic HBV antigen expression, hepatocytes isolated from patients with chronic HBV infection were incubated in the absence or presence of prednisolone (10(-6)-10(-10) M), methylprednisolone (10(-6)-10(-10) M), azathioprine (0.1-10 micrograms/ml), or cyclosporine (50-1000 ng/ml) and the amount of intracellular/secreted antigen was measured by radioimmunoassay. Intracellular HBsAg increased by 25.0-51.1% with prednisolone 10(-8)-10(-6) M (n = 14, P less than 0.05) and methylprednisolone 10(-9)-10(-6) M (n = 8, P less than 0.05). Immunocytochemistry of cytospins showed that the proportion of cells containing HBsAg increased by 20-38% with stronger staining, but the distribution of HBsAg remained diffusely cytoplasmic; the changes in intracellular pre-S1 and pre-S2 paralleled those of HBsAg. Secreted HBsAg was, however, not affected. There was also an increase in intracellular nucleocapsid antigens by 24.1-32.5% with an increase in hepatocytes containing nucleocapsid antigens by 8-18%. Methylprednisolone exerted similar effects to prednisolone. On the other hand, neither azathioprine (n = 11) nor cyclosporine (n = 12) had any effect on intracellular or secreted HBsAg or nucleocapsid antigens. These data indicate that corticosteroids, but not azathioprine or cyclosporine, enhance intracellular HBV antigen expression in this short-term culture system. This may be an important factor in the evolution of FCH and careful attention to the use of corticosteroids may be beneficial in patients with chronic HBV infection undergoing liver transplantation.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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