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World J Gastroenterol. 2003 Apr;9(4):641-4.

Current status and prospects of studies on human genetic alleles associated with hepatitis B virus infection.

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Division of Bioengineering, Beijing Institute of Infectious Diseases, 100 Xi Si-Huan-Zhong Road, Beijing 100039, China.


Chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection can cause a broad spectrum diseases, including from asymptomatic HBV carriers or cryptic hepatitis, to acute hepatitis, chronic hepatitis, Liver cirrhosis and primary hepatocellular carcinoma. The variable pattern and clinical outcome of the infection were mainly determined by virological itself factors, host immunological factors and genetic factors as well as the experimental factors. Among the human genetic factors, major candidate or identified genes involved in the process of HBV infection fall into the following categories: (1) genes that mediate the processes of viral entry into hepatocytes, including genes involved in viral binding, fusion with cellular membrane and transportation in target cells; (2) genes that modulate or control the immune response to HBV infection; (3) genes that participate in the pathological alterations in liver tissue; (4) genes involved in the development of liver cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma associated with chronic HBV infection, including genes related to mother-to-infant transmission of HBV infection; and (5) those that contribute to resistance to antiviral therapies. Most of the reports of human genes associated with HBV infection have currently focused on HLA associations. For example, some investigators reported the association of the HLA class II alleles such as DRB1*1302 or HLA-DR13 or DQA1*0501-DQB1*0301-DQB1*1102 haplotypes with acute and/or chronic hepatitis B virus infection, respectively. Several pro-inflammatory cytokines such as Th1 cytokines (including IL-2 and IFN-gamma) and TNF-alpha have been identified to participate the process of viral clearance and host immune response to HBV. In contrast, the Th2 cytokine IL-10 serves as a potent inhibitor of Th1 effector cells in HBV diseases. The MBP polymorphisms in its encoding region were found to be involved in chronic infection. Thus, reports from various laboratories have shown some inconsistencies with regard to the effects of host genetic factors on HBV clearance and persistence. Since genetic interactions are complex, it is unlikely that a single allelic variant is responsible for HBV resistance or susceptibility. However, the collective influence of several single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) or haplotype (s) may underlie the natural combinational or synergistic protection against HBV. The future study including the multi-cohort collaboration will be needed to clarify these preliminary associations and identify other potential candidate genes. The ongoing study of the distributions and functions of the implicated allele polymorphisms will not only provide insight into the pathogenesis of HBV infection, but may also provide a novel rationale for new methods of diagnosis and therapeutic strategies.

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