J Hepatol 2006 Aug 6;45(2):182-9. Epub 2006 Feb 6.
Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Erasmus MC University Medical Center, Dr Molewaterplein 40, 3015 GD Rotterdam, The Netherlands.
Background/aims: Characteristics of the intrahepatic virus-specific T-cell response in patients with acute hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection have not been studied due to the risk of complications associated with standard liver biopsies. In this study we aimed to characterize the virus-specific CD8 + T-cell response in the liver of patients with acute HBV infection using fine-needle aspiration-biopsy (FNAB).
Methods: In HLA-A2 positive patients with acute HBV infection a FNAB was performed at first presentation, at the time of HBsAg-seroconversion and 3 months after HBsAg-seroconversion. HLA-A2 tetramers were used to identify HBV-specific CD8 + T-cells in FNAB-cytology and peripheral blood (PB).
Results: At first presentation there was a correlation between the frequency of intrahepatic CD8 + T-cells and the degree of liver damage. At all time points there was sequestering of HBV-specific CD8 + T-cells in the liver, and the percentage of intrahepatic HLA-DR expressing HBV-specific CD8 + T-cells was higher than in PB. Three months after HBsAg-seroconversion the frequency of intrahepatic HBV-specific CD8 + T-cells remained high.
Conclusions: HBV-specific CD8 + T-cells are compartmentalized in the liver during acute HBV infection. Their presence in the liver may suggest a role in the resolution of the infection. Intrahepatic HBV-specific CD8 + T cells remain detectable at high frequencies after HBsAg-seroconversion.