Effective B cell responses such as cytokine secretion, proliferation, and Ab-specific responses are essential to clear hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection. However, HBV alters numerous immune pathways to persist in the host. B cell activity depends on activation of the innate sensor TLR9 by viral or bacterial DNA motifs. How HBV can deregulate B cell functions remains unknown. In this study, we show that HBV can enter and decrease TLR9 expression in human primary B cells. Using PBMCs from human blood donors, we show that TLR9 expression was reduced in all peripheral B cells subsets exposed to HBV. B cell function mediated by TLR9, but not TLR7, such as proliferation and proinflammatory cytokines secretion, were abrogated in the presence of HBV; however, global Ig secretion was not downregulated. Mechanistically, we show, using human myeloma B cell line RPMI 8226, that the surface Ag hepatitis B surface Ag was responsible for TLR9 dysfunction. hepatitis B surface Ag suppressed the phosphorylation and thus the activation of the transcription factor CREB, preventing TLR9 promoter activity. Finally, we corroborated our in vitro findings in a cohort of chronic HBV carriers and found that TLR9 expression and function were significantly suppressed. The effect of HBV on TLR9 activity in B cells gives insights into oncoviral immune escape strategies, providing knowledge to develop novel immunotherapeutic approaches in chronic HBV-carrier patients.
Copyright © 2018 by The American Association of Immunologists, Inc.