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Ferrari C.,Laboratory of Viral Immunopathology
Liver International | Year: 2015

Hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection acquired in adult life is generally self-limited while chronic persistence of the virus is the prevalent outcome when infection is acquired perinatally. Both control of infection and liver cell injury are strictly dependent upon protective immune responses, because hepatocyte damage is the price that the host must pay to get rid of intracellular virus. Resolution of acute hepatitis B is associated with functionally efficient, multispecific antiviral T-cell responses which are preceded by a poor induction of intracellular innate responses at the early stages of infection. Persistent control of infection is provided by long-lasting protective memory, which is probably sustained by continuous stimulation of the immune system by trace amounts of virus which are never totally eliminated, persisting in an occult episomic form in the nucleus of liver cells even after recovery from acute infection. Chronic virus persistence is instead characterized by a lack of protective T-cell memory maturation and by an exhaustion of HBV-specific T-cell responses. Persistent exposure of T cells to high antigen loads is a key determinant of functional T-cell impairment but also other mechanisms can contribute to T-cell inhibition, including the tolerogenic effect of the liver environment. The degree of T-cell impairment is variable and its severity is related to the level of virus replication and antigen load. The antiviral T-cell function is more efficient in patients who can control infection either partially, such as inactive HBsAg carriers with low levels of virus replication, or completely, such as patients who achieve HBsAg loss either spontaneously or after antiviral therapy. Thus, understanding the features of the immune responses associated with control of infection is needed for the successful design of novel immune modulatory therapies based on the reconstitution of efficient antiviral responses in chronic HBV patients. © 2014 John Wiley & Sons A/S. Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Source


Bertoletti A.,Agency for Science, Technology and Research Singapore | Bertoletti A.,National University of Singapore | Ferrari C.,Laboratory of Viral Immunopathology
Postgraduate Medical Journal | Year: 2013

Knowledge of the immunological events necessary to control hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection has accelerated in recent years, but their translation towards therapeutic strategies able to achieve a durable HBV suppression has been challenging. The scenario of how HBV deals with the host immunity is presented and used to discuss how the immune response can be harnessed to potentially achieve infection control. Source


Bertoletti A.,Agency for Science, Technology and Research Singapore | Bertoletti A.,National University of Singapore | Ferrari C.,Laboratory of Viral Immunopathology
Gut | Year: 2012

Knowledge of the immunological events necessary to control hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection has accelerated in recent years, but their translation towards therapeutic strategies able to achieve a durable HBV suppression has been challenging. The scenario of how HBV deals with the host immunity is presented and used to discuss how the immune response can be harnessed to potentially achieve infection control. Source


Fisicaro P.,Laboratory of Viral Immunopathology | Valdatta C.,Laboratory of Viral Immunopathology | Massari M.,Unit of Infectious Diseases | Loggi E.,University of Bologna | And 8 more authors.
Gastroenterology | Year: 2012

Background & Aims: In patients with chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections, antiviral functions of T cells are impaired; these might be increased by blocking T-cell co-inhibitory pathways, such as preventing interaction between the receptor programmed death (PD)-1 and its ligand, PD-L1. We attempted to optimize the restoration of T-cell functions in patients with chronic HBV or HCV infection with a combination of reagents that block PD-1 interaction with PD-L1 and stimulate T-cell signaling via CD137, a member of the tumor necrosis factor-receptor family. Methods: We assessed the effects of CD137 stimulation (via CD137L), alone or in combination with antibodies that block PD-1 interaction with PD-L1 (anti-PD-L1), on proliferation and production of interferon-γ and interleukin-2 by intrahepatic and peripheral T cells from patients with chronic HBV or HCV infection. We also analyzed expression of different co-stimulatory molecules on virus-specific CD8+ and forkhead box P3+CD4+ cells by flow cytometry. Results: Incubation of intrahepatic T cells with CD137L and anti-PD-L1 increased their responses to HBV, but not HCV. However, HCV-specific T cells isolated from peripheral blood were sensitive to these reagents. Virus-specific T cells from some, but not all patients, had increased responses to anti-PD-L1 when CD137L was added because in some cases the combination of anti-PD-L1 and CD137L overstimulated T cells, leading to their inhibition. Intrahepatic HBV- and HCV-specific CD8+ T cells had different costimulatory profiles; liver cells from patients with chronic HBV infection had a higher proportion of forkhead box P3+ regulatory T cells, with higher levels of PD-1, compared with liver cells from patients with chronic HCV infection. Conclusions: A combination of reagents that prevent interaction between PD-1 and its ligand and activate CD137 signaling increase responses of intrahepatic HBV-specific T cells and circulating HCV-specific T cells. This strategy might be developed to increase T-cell responses to these viruses in patients with chronic hepatitis B or C, and tailoring the dose of CD137L administered will help optimize results. © 2012 AGA Institute. Source


Penna A.,Laboratory of Viral Immunopathology | Laccabue D.,Laboratory of Viral Immunopathology | Libri I.,Laboratory of Viral Immunopathology | Giuberti T.,Unit of Infectious Diseases and Hepatology | And 10 more authors.
Journal of Hepatology | Year: 2012

Background & Aims: The effect of IFN-α therapy on HBV-specific T-cell responses in HBeAg-negative, genotype D, chronic hepatitis B is largely undefined. Understanding to what extent IFN-α can modulate HBV-specific T-cells is important to define strategies to optimize IFN efficacy and to identify immunological parameters to predict response to therapy. Methods: HBV-specific T-cell responses were analyzed longitudinally ex vivo and after expansion in vitro in 15 patients with genotype D, HBeAg-negative chronic hepatitis B treated with peginterferon-α-2a. HBV proteins and synthetic peptides were used to stimulate T-cell responses. Analysis of the CD4 and CD8 T-cell functions was performed by ELISPOT, intracellular cytokine and tetramer staining. The effect of anti-PD-L1 on T-cell functions was also analyzed. Results: Ex vivo IFN-γ production by total HBV-specific T-cells was significantly greater before therapy in patients who showed HBV DNA <50 IU/ml at weeks 24 and/or 48 of therapy. No significant improvement of T-cell proliferation, Th1 cytokine production and cytotoxicity was observed during IFN therapy by both ex vivo and in vitro analysis. PD-1/PD-L1 blockade showed a modest improvement of cytokine production in a total of 15% of T-cell lines. Conclusions: IFN-α did not improve peripheral blood HBV-specific T-cell responses in the first 24 weeks of treatment, consistent either with a predominant antiviral/antiproliferative effect or with an immunomodulatory activity on other arms of the immune system which were not analyzed in our study. A better pre-treatment ex vivo IFN-γ production was associated with better chances to control HBV replication during therapy and represents a promising predictor of IFN efficacy. © 2012 European Association for the Study of the Liver. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved. Source

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