Expression of HBx and COX-2 in chronic hepatitis B, cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma: implication of HBx in upregulation of COX-2

Mod Pathol. 2004 Oct;17(10):1169-79. doi: 10.1038/modpathol.3800196.


Hepatitis B virus is a major etiological factor of hepatocellular carcinoma, but the underlying mechanisms remain unclear. We have previously demonstrated that upregulation of cyclooxygenase (COX)-2 in chronic hepatitis B persisted despite successful antiviral therapy. In this study, we investigated the relationship between the transactivator HBx and COX-2 in hepatitis B virus-associated chronic liver diseases. Expressions of HBx and COX-2 in tissue specimens were determined by single and double immunohistochemistry. The effects of HBx on COX-2 and prostaglandin E2 production were studied by transfection. HBx was expressed in 11/11 (100%) of chronic hepatitis B, 23/23 (100%) of cirrhosis, and 18/23 (78%) of hepatocellular carcinoma, whereas no immunoreactivity was found in four nonalcoholic steato-hepatitis controls. COX-2 expression was also detected in all specimens of liver lesions except in only 29% of poorly differentiated hepatocellular carcinoma. Significant correlation between HBx and COX-2 immunoreactivity scores was found in different types of chronic liver diseases (chronic hepatitis B, rs = 0.68; cirrhosis, rs = 0.57; hepatocellular carcinoma, rs = 0.45). Double immunohistochemistry showed colocalization of HBx and COX-2 in hepatic parenchymal cells. Similar to COX-2, there was no significant change in HBx expression in patients with chronic hepatitis B after interferon and lamivudine therapy when hepatitis B virus DNA became undetectable and inflammation subsided. Transfection of Hep3B hepatocellular carcinoma cells with HBx increased COX-2 expression and prostaglandin E2 production. HBx was localized mainly in the cytoplasm and less in nucleus, as found in the liver lesions. In conclusion, our results strongly suggested that there was a close relationship between HBx and COX-2. COX-2 might represent an important cellular effector of HBx that contributes to hepatitis B virus-associated hepatocarcinogenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anti-HIV Agents / therapeutic use
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / metabolism
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / pathology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cyclooxygenase 2
  • Dinoprostone / metabolism
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / genetics
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / metabolism
  • Hepatitis B, Chronic / drug therapy
  • Hepatitis B, Chronic / metabolism
  • Hepatitis B, Chronic / pathology
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Interferons / therapeutic use
  • Isoenzymes / biosynthesis*
  • Isoenzymes / genetics
  • Lamivudine / therapeutic use
  • Liver Cirrhosis / metabolism
  • Liver Cirrhosis / pathology
  • Liver Diseases / metabolism
  • Liver Diseases / pathology*
  • Liver Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Liver Neoplasms / pathology
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Plasmids / genetics
  • Prostaglandin-Endoperoxide Synthases / biosynthesis*
  • Prostaglandin-Endoperoxide Synthases / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / genetics
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / metabolism
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Trans-Activators / biosynthesis*
  • Trans-Activators / genetics
  • Transfection
  • Viral Regulatory and Accessory Proteins


  • Anti-HIV Agents
  • Isoenzymes
  • Membrane Proteins
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • Trans-Activators
  • Viral Regulatory and Accessory Proteins
  • hepatitis B virus X protein
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • Lamivudine
  • Interferons
  • Cyclooxygenase 2
  • PTGS2 protein, human
  • Prostaglandin-Endoperoxide Synthases
  • Dinoprostone