The molecular basis of the failed immune response in chronic HBV: therapeutic implications

J Hepatol. 2010 Apr;52(4):616-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jhep.2009.12.017. Epub 2010 Jan 7.


There is a pressing need to develop new immunotherapeutic interventions in chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection in order to limit the high costs and risks of toxicity or viral resistance associated with maintenance antiviral treatment. Here we review recent advances in our understanding of the molecular defects underlying the profound T cell depletion characteristic of these patients. We propose that T cells are driven to apoptosis by the combination of a persistent, high antigen load and excessive inhibitory signals encountered in the hepatic microenvironment. The feasibility of boosting sustained antiviral control by targeted reversal of key tolerising mechanisms is discussed.

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis / immunology
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / cytology
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / virology
  • Hepatitis B virus / immunology*
  • Hepatitis B, Chronic / immunology*
  • Hepatitis B, Chronic / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Immune Tolerance / immunology
  • Immunotherapy*