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Immune Netw. 2010 Aug;10(4):126-34. doi: 10.4110/in.2010.10.4.126. Epub 2010 Aug 31.

Expression of hepatitis B virus x protein in hepatocytes suppresses CD8 T cell activity.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Ajou University School of Medicine, Suwon 442-721, Korea.



CD8(+) T cells contribute to the clearance of Hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection and an insufficient CD8(+) T cell response may be one of the major factors leading to chronic HBV infection. Since the HBx antigen of HBV can up-regulate cellular expression of several immunomodulatory molecules, we hypothesized that HBx expression in hepatocytes might affect CD8(+) T cell activity.


We analyzed the activation and apoptosis of CD8(+) T cells co-cultured with primary hepatocytes rendered capable of expressing HBx by recombinant baculovirus infection.


Expression of HBx in hepatocytes induced low production of interferon-γ and apoptosis of CD8(+) T cells, with no effect on CD8 T cell proliferation. However, transcriptional levels of H-2K, ICAM-1 and PD-1 ligand did not correlate with HBx expression in hepatocytes.


Our results suggest that HBx may inhibit CD8(+) T cell response by regulation of interferon-γ production and apoptosis.


Apoptosis; Cytotoxic; Hepadnaviridae; Interferon-γ; T-lymphocytes; Viral proteins

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