Quantified integrated hepatitis B virus is related to viral activity in patients with chronic hepatitis B

Robin Erken, Vladimir Loukachov, Karel van Dort, Anne van den Hurk, R. Bart Takkenberg, Anniki de Niet, Louis Jansen, Sophie Willemse, Henk Reesink, Neeltje Kootstra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Background and Aims: HBV can integrate in the host genome of the hepatocyte and recent findings suggest that integrated HBV contributes to the persistent production of viral proteins. Here, we quantified the levels of integrated HBV in patients with chronic hepatitis B (CHB) and analyzed the relation between HBV integration, virological activity (plasma HBV DNA and HBsAg levels), and clinical outcomes. Approach and Results: We developed and validated a multistep Arthrobacter luteus (Alu)-PCR that specifically amplifies integrated HBV and RT-Alu-PCR detecting mRNA transcripts derived from integrated HBV. Pretreatment liver biopsy samples and baseline characteristics of 124 patients with CHB either treated for 48 weeks with pegylated interferon plus adefovir or tenofovir or receiving no treatment were available for analysis. Integrated HBV sequences containing open reading frame S and X (but not C) and S and X mRNA transcripts derived from integrated HBV could be detected and quantified in liver biopsies. Integrated HBV levels correlated with HBV DNA, HBsAg, alanine aminotransferase plasma levels, and the liver histology activity index but not to levels of intrahepatic covalently closed circular DNA (cccDNA), plasma pregenomic RNA, or hepatitis B core-related antigen. Multivariable logistic regression analysis showed that lower baseline HBV integration levels were independently associated with HBsAg loss (functional cure) within 5 years follow-up. Conclusions: Integrated HBV levels are strongly correlated with surrogate markers for virological activity but not to cccDNA levels and are predictive for HBsAg loss. Our data suggest that integrated HBV is closely related to HBV replication and may therefore be an important tool in the evaluation and development of treatment modalities aiming to cure CHB.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)196-206
Number of pages11
Issue number1
Early online date2022
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2022

Cite this