Liver Macrophages: Friend or Foe During Hepatitis B Infection?

Liver Int. 2018 Oct;38(10):1718-1729. doi: 10.1111/liv.13884. Epub 2018 Jun 9.


The Hepatitis B virus chronically infects the liver of 250 million people worldwide. Over the past decades, major advances have been made in the understanding of Hepatitis B virus life cycle in hepatocytes. Beside these parenchymal cells, the liver also contains resident and infiltrating myeloid cells involved in immune responses to pathogens and much less is known about their interplay with Hepatitis B virus. In this review, we summarized and discussed the current knowledge of the role of liver macrophages (including Kupffer cells and liver monocyte-derived macrophages), in HBV infection. While it is still unclear if liver macrophages play a role in the establishment and persistence of HBV infection, several studies disclosed data suggesting that HBV would favour liver macrophage anti-inflammatory phenotypes and thereby increase liver tolerance. In addition, alternatively activated liver macrophages might also play in the long term a key role in hepatitis B-associated pathogenesis, especially through the activation of hepatic stellate cells. Therapies aiming at a transient activation of pro-inflammatory liver macrophages should therefore be considered for the treatment of chronic HBV infection.

Keywords: Kupffer cells; hepatitis B virus; innate immunity inhibition; tolerance.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Hepatitis B / immunology*
  • Hepatitis B / therapy
  • Hepatitis B virus
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions
  • Humans
  • Immune Tolerance
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Kupffer Cells / immunology*
  • Liver / cytology*
  • Macrophages / immunology*