• Chronic hepatitis C virus infection irreversibly impacts human natural killer cell repertoire diversity.

      Strunz, Benedikt; Hengst, Julia; Deterding, Katja; Manns, Michael P; Cornberg, Markus; Ljunggren, Hans-Gustaf; Wedemeyer, Heiner; Björkström, Niklas K; Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2018-06-11)
      Diversity is a central requirement for the immune system's capacity to adequately clear a variety of different infections. As such, natural killer (NK) cells represent a highly diverse population of innate lymphocytes important in the early response against viruses. Yet, the extent to which a chronic pathogen affects NK cell diversity is largely unknown. Here we study NK cell functional diversification in chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. High-dimensional flow cytometer assays combined with stochastic neighbor embedding analysis reveal that chronic HCV infection induces functional imprinting on human NK cells that is largely irreversible and persists long after successful interventional clearance of the virus. Furthermore, HCV infection increases inter-individual, but decreases intra-individual, NK cell diversity. Taken together, our results provide insights into how the history of infections affects human NK cell diversity.
    • Hepatitis E Virus (HEV)-Specific T Cell Receptor Cross-Recognition: Implications for Immunotherapy.

      Soon, Chai Fen; Zhang, Shihong; Suneetha, Pothakamuri Venkata; Antunes, Dinler Amaral; Manns, Michael Peter; Raha, Solaiman; Schultze-Florey, Christian; Prinz, Immo; Wedemeyer, Heiner; Sällberg Chen, Margaret; et al. (Frontiers, 2019-01-01)
      T cell immunotherapy is a concept developed for the treatment of cancer and infectious diseases, based on cytotoxic T lymphocytes to target tumor- or pathogen-specific antigens. Antigen-specificity of the T cell receptors (TCRs) is an important selection criterion in the developmental design of immunotherapy. However, off-target specificity is a possible autoimmunity concern if the engineered antigen-specific T cells are cross-reacting to self-peptides in-vivo. In our recent work, we identified several hepatitis E virus (HEV)-specific TCRs as potential candidates to be developed into T cell therapy to treat chronic hepatitis E. One of the identified TCRs, targeting a HLA-A2-restricted epitope at the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (HEV-1527: LLWNTVWNM), possessed a unique multiple glycine motif in the TCR-β CDR3, which might be a factor inducing cross-reactivity. The aim of our study was to explore if this TCR could cross-recognize self-peptides to underlay autoimmunity. Indeed, we found that this HEV-1527-specific TCR could also cross-recognize an apoptosis-related epitope, Nonmuscle Myosin Heavy Chain 9 (MYH9-478: QLFNHTMFI). While this TCR had dual specificities to both viral epitope and a self-antigen by double Dextramer binding, it was selectively functional against HEV-1527 but not activated against MYH9-478. The consecutive glycine motif in β chain may be the reason promoting TCR binding promiscuity to recognize a secondary target, thereby facilitating cross-recognition. In conclusion, candidate TCRs for immunotherapy development should be screened for autoimmune potential, especially when the TCRs exhibit unique sequence pattern.
    • Irreversible impact of chronic hepatitis C virus infection on human natural killer cell diversity.

      Strunz, Benedikt; Hengst, Julia; Wedemeyer, Heiner; Björkström, Niklas K; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (Shared Science org, 2018-07-25)
      Diversity is crucial for the immune system to efficiently combat infections. Natural killer (NK) cells are innate cytotoxic lymphocytes that contribute to the control of viral infections. NK cells were for long thought to be a homogeneous population of cells. However, recent work has instead revealed NK cells to represent a highly diverse population of immune cells where a vast number of subpopulations with distinct characteristics exist across tissues. However, the degree to which a chronic viral infection affects NK cell diversity remains elusive. Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is effective in establishing chronic infection in humans. During the last years, new direct-acting antiviral drugs (DAA) have revolutionized treatment of chronic hepatitis C, enabling rapid cure in the majority of patients. This allows us to study the influence of a chronic viral infection and its subsequent elimination on the NK cell compartment with a focus on NK cell diversity. In our recent study (Nat Commun, 9:2275), we show that chronic HCV infection irreversibly impacts human NK cell repertoire diversity.
    • Quantitation of large, middle and small hepatitis B surface proteins in HBeAg-positive patients treated with peginterferon alfa-2a.

      Rinker, Franziska; Bremer, Corinna M; Schröder, Kathrin; Wiegand, Steffen B; Bremer, Birgit; Manns, Michael P; Kraft, Anke R; Wedemeyer, Heiner; Yang, Lei; Pavlovic, Vedran; et al. (Wiley, 2019-11-13)
      BACKGROUND & AIMS: Hepatitis B virus (HBV) contains three viral surface proteins, large, middle and small hepatitis B surface protein (LHBs, MHBs, SHBs). Proportions of LHBs and MHBs are lower in patients with inactive versus active chronic infection. Interferon alfa may convert HBeAg-positive chronic hepatitis B (CHB) to an inactive carrier state, but prediction of sustained response is unsatisfactory. The aim of this study was to test the hypothesis that quantification of MHBs and LHBs may allow for a better prognosis of therapeutic response than total hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) concentration. METHODS: HBs proteins were measured before and during peginterferon alfa-2a therapy in serum from 127 Asian patients with HBeAg-positive CHB. Sustained response was defined as hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg) seroconversion 24 weeks post-treatment. RESULTS: Mean total HBs levels were significantly lower in responders versus nonresponders at all time points (P<.05) and decreased steadily during the initial 24 weeks' treatment (by 1.16 versus 0.86 ng/mL in responders/nonresponders, respectively) with unchanged relative proportions. Genotype B had a twofold higher proportion of LHBs than genotype C (13% versus 6%). HBV DNA, HBeAg, HBsAg, and HBs protein levels predicted response equally well but not optimally (area under the ROC curve values >0.70). CONCLUSIONS: HBs proteins levels differ by HBV genotype. However, quantification of HBs proteins has no advantage over the already established HBsAg assays to predict response to peginterferon alfa-2a therapy in HBeAg-positive patients.
    • Soluble immune markers in the different phases of chronic hepatitis B virus infection

      Wiegand, Steffen B.; Beggel, Bastian; Wranke, Anika; Aliabadi, Elmira; Jaroszewicz, Jerzy; Xu, Cheng Jian; Li, Yang; Manns, Michael P.; Lengauer, Thomas; Wedemeyer, Heiner; et al. (Nature publishing group, 2019-10-01)
      Chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection may follow four different consecutive phases, which are defined by virology as well as biochemical markers and differ in terms of prognosis and need for antiviral treatment. Currently, host responses reflected by immune markers are not considered in this definition. We aimed to study soluble immune markers and their distribution in different phases of chronic HBV infection. In this cross-sectional retrospective study, we investigated a panel of 14 soluble immune markers (SIM) including CXCL10 in 333 patients with chronic HBV infection. In a small cohort of HBeAg positive patients we analyzed SIM before and after HBeAg seroconversion and compared seroconverters to patients with unknown outcome. Significant differences were documented in the levels of several SIM between the four phases of chronic HBV infection. The most pronounced difference among all investigated SIM was observed for CXCL10 concentrations with highest levels in patients with hepatitis. TGF-β and IL-17 revealed different levels between HBeAg negative patients. HBeAg positive patients with HBeAg seroconversion presented higher amounts of IL-12 before seroconversion compared to HBeAg positive patients with unknown follow up. SIM such as CXCL10 but also IL-12, TGF-β and IL-17 may be useful markers to further characterize the phase of chronic HBV infection.