Defects in the precore region of the HBV genome in patients with chronic hepatitis B after sustained seroconversion from HBeAg to anti-HBe induced spontaneously or with interferon therapy

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Abstract

Hepatitis B virus DNA clones were propagated from sera of six patients with chronic hepatitis B who seroconverted from HBeAg to antibody to HBeAg either spontaneously or after administration of α-interferon. Defects in the precore region blocking synthesis and secretion of HBeAg were detected in all 46 hepatitis B virus DNA clones from three patients who remained positive for antibody to HBeAg and in whom hepatitis resolved. Defective clones had point mutations from guanine to adenine at nucleotide 83 in the precore region, converting codon 28 from tryptophan (TGG) to a stop codon (TAG). In contrast, this defect was not found in any of 39 hepatitis B virus DNA clones from three patients who seroconverted to antibody to HBeAg but then redeveloped HBeAg with reactivation of hepatitis. Using these results, the G-to-A point mutation at nucleotide 83 in the precore region would predict sustained positivity for antibody to HBeAg and remission of hepatitis in patients who have seroconverted either spontaneously or with interferon therapy. (HEPATOLOGY 1990;12:1284–1289).

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