Background: Clinical progression of HBV-related liver diseases is largely associated with the activity of HBV-specific T cells. Soluble fibrinogen-like protein 2 (sFGL2), mainly secreted by T cells, is an important effector molecule of the immune system.
Methods: sFGL2 levels were determined by ELISA assays in sera of 296 HBV patients clinically classified into the subgroups of acute hepatitis B (AHB), chronic hepatitis B (CHB), liver cirrhosis (LC), hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and patients with LC plus HCC. As control group, 158 healthy individuals were included. FGL2 mRNA was quantified by qRT-PCR in 32 pairs of tumor and adjacent non-tumor liver tissues.
Results: sFGL2 levels were elevated in HBV patients compared to healthy controls (P < 0.0001). In the patient group, sFGL2 levels were increased in AHB compared to CHB patients (P = 0.017). sFGL2 levels were higher in LC patients compared to those without LC (P = 0.006) and were increased according to the development of cirrhosis as staged by Child-Pugh scores (P = 0.024). Similarly, HCC patients had increased sFGL2 levels compared to CHB patients (P = 0.033) and FGL2 mRNA was up-regulated in tumor tissues compared to adjacent non-tumor tissues (P = 0.043). In addition, sFGL2 levels were positively correlated with HBV-DNA loads and AST (Spearman's rho = 0.21, 0.25 and P = 0.006, 0.023, respectively), but reversely correlated with platelet counts and albumin levels (Spearman's rho = - 0.27, - 0.24 and P = 0.014, 0.033, respectively).
Conclusions: sFGL2 levels are induced by HBV infection and correlated with the progression and clinical outcome of HBV-related liver diseases. Thus, sFGL2 may serve as a potential indicator for HBV-related liver diseases.
Keywords: HBV infection; Hepatocellular carcinoma; Liver cirrhosis; Viral hepatitis; sFGL2 levels.