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Virology. 2007 Mar 15;359(2):283-94. Epub 2006 Oct 31.

The liver of woodchucks chronically infected with the woodchuck hepatitis virus contains foci of virus core antigen-negative hepatocytes with both altered and normal morphology.

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  • 1Division of Basic Science, Fox Chase Cancer Center, 333 Cottman Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19111, USA.

Abstract

The livers of woodchucks chronically infected with woodchuck hepatitis virus (WHV) contain foci of morphologically altered hepatocytes (FAH) with "basophilic", "amphophilic" and "clear cell" phenotypes, which are possibly pre-neoplastic in nature. Interestingly, most fail to express detectable levels of WHV proteins and nucleic acids. We studied sections of WHV-infected liver tissue to determine if all foci of hepatocytes that failed to express detectable levels of WHV, as assessed by immunoperoxidase staining for WHV core antigen, could be classified morphologically as FAH. We found that at least half of the foci of WHV core antigen-negative hepatocytes did not show clear morphological differences in either H&E or PAS (periodic acid Schiff) stained sections from surrounding hepatocytes, and were therefore not designated as FAH. In the second approach, we assayed core antigen-negative foci for the presence of fetuin B, a serum protein produced by normal hepatocytes, but not by neoplastic hepatocytes in hepatocellular carcinomas. Basophilic and amphophilic FAH had reduced levels of fetuin B compared to hepatocytes present in the surrounding liver; fetuin B staining was detected in clear cell FAH but the level could not be accurately assessed because of the displacement of fetuin B to the cell periphery by accumulated glycogen. The foci of morphologically normal WHV core antigen-negative hepatocytes had similar levels of fetuin B to that of the surrounding hepatocytes. The co-existence of at least four types of WHV core antigen-negative foci, including those with no obvious morphologic changes, raises the possibility that the different foci arise from distinct primary events. We hypothesize that a common event is loss of the ability to express WHV, allowing these hepatocytes to escape immune mediated cell death and to undergo clonal expansion to form distinct foci.

PMID:
17078989
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC1861837
Free PMC Article
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