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J Virol. 2012 Sep;86(17):9044-54. doi: 10.1128/JVI.00130-12. Epub 2012 Jun 6.

Hepatitis D virus isolates with low replication and epithelial-mesenchymal transition-inducing activity are associated with disease remission.

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  • 1Department of Medical Research and Education, Taipei Veterans General Hospital, Taipei, Taiwan.


Clearance of hepatitis D virus (HDV) viremia leads to disease remission. Large hepatitis delta antigen (L-HDAg) has been reported to activate transforming growth factor β, which may induce epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and fibrogenesis. This study analyzed serum HDV RNA "quasispecies" in HDV-infected patients at two stages of infection: before and after alanine aminotransferase (ALT) elevations. Included in the study were four patients who went into remission after ALT elevation and three patients who did not go into remission and progressed to cirrhosis or hepatocellular carcinoma. Full-length HDV cDNA clones were obtained from the most abundant HDV RNA species at the pre- and post-ALT elevation stages. Using an in vitro model consisting of Huh-7 cells transfected with cloned HDV cDNAs, the pre- or post-ALT elevation dominant HDV RNA species were characterized for (i) their replication capacity by measuring HDV RNA and HDAg levels in transfected cells and (ii) their capacity to induce EMT by measuring the levels of the mesenchymal-cell-specific protein vimentin, the EMT regulators twist and snail, and the epithelial-cell-specific protein E-cadherin. Results show that in patients in remission, the post-ALT elevation dominant HDV RNA species had a lower replication capacity in vitro and lower EMT activity than their pre-ALT elevation counterparts. This was not true of patients who did not go into remission. The expression of L-HDAg, but not small HDAg, increased the expression of the EMT-related proteins. It is concluded that in chronically infected patients, HDV quasispecies with a low replication capacity and low EMT activity are associated with disease remission.

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