Intrahepatic IP-10 mRNA and plasma IP-10 levels as response marker for HBeAg-positive chronic hepatitis B patients treated with peginterferon and adefovir

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Abstract

Introduction

Interferon-y–inducible protein-10 (IP-10), also called CXCL10, is produced by different types of cells such as monocytes, neutrophils and hepatocytes. IP-10 functions as an inflammatory cytokine, which after binding to its receptor CXCR3, expressed on T-lymphocytes, leads to immune activation. We aimed to establish if IP-10 expression in liver tissue and in plasma of chronic hepatitis B (CHB) patients correlated with each other and further to investigate if IP-10 levels before and during therapy with peginterferon and adefovir could predict treatment outcome in CHB patients.

Patients and methods

A total of 86 CHB patients (41 HBeAg-positive and 45 HBeAg-negative) received combination therapy of peginterferon and adefovir for 48 weeks. Combined Response (CR) (HBeAg-negativity, HBV-DNA ≤ 2000 IU/mL, ALT normalization) and non-response (NR) were assessed at Week 72. Plasma IP-10 levels were measured at baseline and during treatment at Day 3 (D3) and Week 1 (W1). Pre-treatment liver biopsies from 40 of 86 patients were obtained and stored in liquid nitrogen for the analysis of intrahepatic IP-10 mRNA expression.

Results

CR was achieved in 14/41 HBeAg-positive and 17/45 HBeAg-negative patients. Mean baseline plasma IP-10 levels were significantly higher in HBeAg-positive patients with CR than NR (3.20 vs 3.00 log pg/mL p = 0.03); but not in HBeAg-negative patients. Baseline IP-10 levels correlated with ALT-levels in HBeAg-positive and -negative patients (both p < 0.001), and with a decline of HBsAg-levels of ≥0.5 log IU/mL at Week 12 in HBeAg-positive patients (p = 0.001). Plasma IP-10 levels were associated with intrahepatic IP-10 mRNA expression, however, more strongly in HBeAg-positive (R = 0.79, p < 0.001) than in HBeAg-negative patients (R = 0.53, p = 0.011). IP-10 levels only correlated with HAI-scores in HBeAg-positive patients (R = 0.40 p = 0.025). Mean plasma IP-10 levels of both HBeAg-positive and -negative patients increased significantly at D3 compared to baseline (+0.30 log pg/mL p = 0.003), to then decline subsequently at W1 to a level still significantly higher than baseline (+0.14 log pg/mL p < 0.001). The increase of IP-10 was significantly higher in HBeAg-positive patients with NR than in those with CR (+0.35 versus +0.11 log pg/mL p = 0.003).

Conclusions

Baseline plasma IP-10 levels and IP-10 mRNA expression in the liver are correlated with each other, suggesting that plasma IP-10 reflects intrahepatic immune activation. Higher IP-10 levels at baseline seem to be associated with CR in HBeAg-positive patients treated with peginterferon and adefovir, but not in HBeAg-negative patients.

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