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J Viral Hepat. 2004 May;11(3):217-24.

Selective functional deficit in dendritic cell--T cell interaction is a crucial mechanism in chronic hepatitis B virus infection.

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Department of Microbiology, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong.


A defect in specific T cell immunity has long been assumed to be the central mechanism of persistent Hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection. Recent studies on HBV transgenic mice have suggested, however, that functional deficit of dendritic cells (DC) was an underlying cause for the T cell dysfunction. The functions of monocyte-derived DC were determined by studying 75 subjects that included chronic hepatitis B patients with low or high HBV load; antibody to hepatitis B surface antigen (anti-HBs) positive individuals who had recovered completely from previous acute HBV infection; healthy donors who had received hepatitis B vaccination and were anti-HBs positive; and immunologically naïve to HBV or the vaccine individual. Impaired interactions between monocyte-derived DC and T cells were shown in chronic HBV infection patients, especially in those with active virus replication. The dysfunctions included: (i) failure of DC to increase human leukocyte antigen (HLA-II), B7 expression and interleukin-12 secretion in responses to hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg), (ii) defective induction of T cell proliferative response to HBsAg, (iii) failure to activate T cells to produce cytokines and (iv) deficit in the induction of antigen specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs). In vitro treatment of DC with tumour necrosis factor-alpha improved HLA-II and B7 expression, as well as Th cell and CTL responses. It is concluded that defective DC-T cell interactions may account for the specific T cell immune defects in chronic HBV infection. Immunotherapy that aims at restoring DC functions could offer a new opportunity for effectively managing persistent HBV infections.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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