Hepatitis B Virus Flares After Nucleot(s)ide Analogue Cessation Are Associated With Activation of Toll-Like Receptor Signaling Pathways

Samuel A.L. Hall, Gareth S. Burns, Benjamin J. Mooney, Rosemary Millen, Rachel Morris, Sara Vogrin, Vijaya Sundararajan, Dilip Ratnam, Miriam T. Levy, John S. Lubel, Amanda J. Nicoll, Simone I. Strasser, William Sievert, Paul V. Desmond, Meng C. Ngu, Peter Angus, Marie Sinclair, Christopher Meredith, Gail Matthews, Peter A. RevillKathy Jackson, Margaret Littlejohn, Scott Bowden, Stephen A. Locarnini, Alexander J. Thompson, Kumar Visvanathan

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BACKGROUND: We evaluated the patterns of peripheral Toll-like receptor (TLR) signaling activity and the expression of TLRs and natural killer (NK) cell activation in a cohort of patients experiencing severe hepatitis flares after stopping nucleot(s)ide analogues (NAs) therapy. METHODS: Samples were collected longitudinally from patients with chronic hepatitis B who were enrolled in a prospective study of NA discontinuation. Patients experiencing hepatitis flares were compared with patients with normal alanine aminotransferase. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) were stimulated with TLR ligands and cytokine secretion in the cell culture supernatant measured. Expression of TLR2/4, NKG2D, NKp46, and triggering receptor expressed on myeloid cells 1 (TREM-1) on monocytes, NK, and NK-T cells was measured. RESULTS: Seventeen patients with severe reactivation hepatitis flares were compared to 12 nonflare patients. Hepatitis flares were associated with increased activity of TLR2-8 and TLR9 signaling in PBMCs at the time of peak flare compared to baseline. Hepatitis flares were also associated with (1) upregulation of TLR2 and (2) TREM-1 receptor expression on NK. There were no differences at baseline between flare patients and nonflare patients. CONCLUSIONS: Hepatitis flares off NA therapy have a significant innate inflammatory response with upregulation of TLR signaling on peripheral monocytes and TLR2 and TREM-1 expression on NK cells. This implicates the innate immune system in the immunopathogenesis of hepatitis B flares.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)123-132
Number of pages10
JournalThe Journal of Infectious Diseases
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2023


  • cessation
  • entecavir
  • flare
  • hepatitis B virus
  • tenofovir

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