HBV integrations reshaping genomic structures promote hepatocellular carcinoma

Gut. 2024 Feb 23:gutjnl-2023-330414. doi: 10.1136/gutjnl-2023-330414. Online ahead of print.


Objective: Hepatitis B virus (HBV)-related hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), mostly characterised by HBV integrations, is prevalent worldwide. Previous HBV studies mainly focused on a few hotspot integrations. However, the oncogenic role of the other HBV integrations remains unclear. This study aimed to elucidate HBV integration-induced tumourigenesis further.

Design: Here, we illuminated the genomic structures encompassing HBV integrations in 124 HCCs across ages using whole genome sequencing and Nanopore long reads. We classified a repertoire of integration patterns featured by complex genomic rearrangement. We also conducted a clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat (CRISPR)-based gain-of-function genetic screen in mouse hepatocytes. We individually activated each candidate gene in the mouse model to uncover HBV integration-mediated oncogenic aberration that elicits tumourigenesis in mice.

Results: These HBV-mediated rearrangements are significantly enriched in a bridge-fusion-bridge pattern and interchromosomal translocations, and frequently led to a wide range of aberrations including driver copy number variations in chr 4q, 5p (TERT), 6q, 8p, 16q, 9p (CDKN2A/B), 17p (TP53) and 13q (RB1), and particularly, ultra-early amplifications in chr8q. Integrated HBV frequently contains complex structures correlated with the translocation distance. Paired breakpoints within each integration event usually exhibit different microhomology, likely mediated by different DNA repair mechanisms. HBV-mediated rearrangements significantly correlated with young age, higher HBV DNA level and TP53 mutations but were less prevalent in the patients subjected to prior antiviral therapies. Finally, we recapitulated the TONSL and TMEM65 amplification in chr8q led by HBV integration using CRISPR/Cas9 editing and demonstrated their tumourigenic potentials.

Conclusion: HBV integrations extensively reshape genomic structures and promote hepatocarcinogenesis (graphical abstract), which may occur early in a patient's life.