Background: Chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection leads to liver fibrosis, which is a major risk factor in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and an independent risk factor of recurrence after HCC tumor resection. The HBV genome can be inserted into the human genome, and chronic inflammation may trigger somatic mutations. However, how HBV integration and other genomic changes contribute to the risk of tumor recurrence with regards to the different degree of liver fibrosis is not clearly understood.
Methods: We sequenced mRNAs of 21 pairs of tumor and distant non-neoplastic liver tissues of HBV-HCC patients and performed comprehensive genomic analyses of our RNAseq data and public available HBV-HCC sequencing data.
Results: We developed a robust pipeline for sensitively identifying HBV integration sites based on sequencing data. Simulations showed that our method outperformed existing methods. Applying it to our data, 374 and 106 HBV host genes were identified in non-neoplastic liver and tumor tissues, respectively. When applying it to other RNA sequencing datasets, consistently more HBV integrations were identified in non-neoplastic liver than in tumor tissues. HBV host genes identified in non-neoplastic liver samples significantly overlapped with known tumor suppressor genes. More significant enrichment of tumor suppressor genes was observed among HBV host genes identified from patients with tumor recurrence, indicating the potential risk of tumor recurrence driven by HBV integration in non-neoplastic liver tissues. We also compared SNPs of each sample with SNPs in a cancer census database and inferred samples' pathogenic SNP loads. Pathogenic SNP loads in non-neoplastic liver tissues were consistently higher than those in normal liver tissues. Additionally, HBV host genes identified in non-neoplastic liver tissues significantly overlapped with pathogenic somatic mutations, suggesting that HBV integration and somatic mutations targeting the same set of genes are important to tumorigenesis. HBV integrations and pathogenic mutations showed distinct patterns between low and high liver fibrosis patients with regards to tumor recurrence.
Conclusions: The results suggest that HBV integrations and pathogenic SNPs in non-neoplastic tissues are important for tumorigenesis and different recurrence risk models are needed for patients with low and high degrees of liver fibrosis.
Keywords: Fusion transcript; HBV integration; HBV-HCC; Liver fibrosis; Pathogenic SNPs; Tumor recurrence.