Quantitative analysis of HBV cccDNA from clinical specimens: correlation with clinical and virological response during antiviral therapy

J Viral Hepat. 2007 Jan;14(1):55-63. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2893.2006.00775.x.


Attempts to investigate changes in various forms of intrahepatic hepatitis B virus (HBV) DNA during antiviral therapy have been hampered by limitations in technologies and scarcity of adequate tissue for analysis. We used a sensitive, specific assay to detect and quantitate covalently closed circular DNA (cccDNA) from total intrahepatic HBV DNA in clinical liver specimens. Total HBV DNA and cccDNA from 21 needle-biopsy specimens were quantified, with levels ranging from 0.1 to 9.8 copies/cell and 0.3 to 491.0 copies/cell, respectively. Then, we performed the same determinations on baseline and week-52 liver needle-biopsy specimens from eight patients enrolled in a clinical trial and evaluated the association between intrahepatic HBV DNA levels and serological and virological endpoints. In most patients, levels of intrahepatic HBV DNA, including cccDNA, decreased over the 52-week study, regardless of therapy or serological outcome. Higher ratios of cccDNA to total HBV DNA were detected at week 52 than at baseline indicating a shift in predominance of nonreplicating virus in posttreatment specimens. In patients who achieved treatment-related or spontaneous hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg) responses, including those harbouring tyrosine-methionine-aspartate-aspartate-mutant HBV, levels of intrahepatic and serum HBV DNA suppression were greater than those in patients without HBeAg responses. In conclusion, this pilot study of intrahepatic HBV replicative forms in patients with chronic hepatitis B indicated that total intrahepatic and, specifically, cccDNA levels are not static but change as a reflection of serological and virological events.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alanine Transaminase / blood
  • Amino Acid Motifs
  • Antiviral Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Biopsy, Fine-Needle
  • DNA Probes / genetics
  • DNA, Circular / analysis*
  • DNA, Circular / genetics
  • DNA, Viral / genetics
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Hepatitis B e Antigens / blood
  • Hepatitis B virus / genetics*
  • Hepatitis B, Chronic / blood
  • Hepatitis B, Chronic / drug therapy*
  • Hepatitis B, Chronic / pathology
  • Hepatitis B, Chronic / virology*
  • Humans
  • Interferon-alpha / therapeutic use*
  • Lamivudine / therapeutic use*
  • Mutation
  • Pilot Projects
  • Virus Replication / drug effects


  • Antiviral Agents
  • DNA Probes
  • DNA, Circular
  • DNA, Viral
  • Hepatitis B e Antigens
  • Interferon-alpha
  • Lamivudine
  • Alanine Transaminase