SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Abstract

Cellular immunity plays an important role in the long-term control of hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection. We studied the changes in HBV-specific CD4 T cell immunity after orthotopic liver transplantation (OLT) for chronic hepatitis B under antiviral prophylaxis. T cell proliferation and interferon-γ production in response to in vitro challenge with HBV-encoded antigens were tested in 40 OLT recipients without HBV recurrence and in 12 OLT recipients with HBV recurrence more than 1 year after transplantation, and they were compared to 40 subjects with chronic HBV infection and to 23 subjects with self-limited HBV infection. The frequency and magnitude of the HBV-specific CD4 T cell response were significantly lower in 40 OLT recipients with HBV clearance, but the T cell reactivity to mitogen (phytohemagglutinin) and recall antigen (tetanus toxoid) was maintained. In the 12 OLT recipients with HBV recurrence, however, the HBV-specific T cell immunity was enhanced to a level comparable to that of patients with chronic hepatitis B, and the level was dependent on the serum viral load. In conclusion, HBV-specific CD4 T cell immunity is antigen-driven and evanesces with viral clearance, hence providing a favorable milieu for reactivation once prophylaxis is withdrawn. The cellular immunity in recipients with recurrence is not significantly different from that of individuals with chronic hepatitis B. Liver Transpl 15:292–299, 2009. © 2009 AASLD.