[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: By inhibiting target gene expression, microRNAs (miRNAs) play major roles in various physiological and pathological processes. miR-146a, a miRNA induced upon LPS stimulation and virus infection, is also highly expressed in patients with immune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, Sjögren's syndrome, and psoriasis. Whether the high level of miR-146a contributes to any of these pathogenesis-related processes remains unknown. To elucidate the function of miR-146a in vivo, we generated a transgenic mouse line overexpressing miR-146a. Starting at an early age, these transgenic mice developed spontaneous immune disorders mimicking human autoimmune lymphoproliferative syndrome (ALPS) with distinct manifestations, including enlarged spleens and lymph nodes, inflammatory infiltration in the livers and lungs, increased levels of double-negative T cells in peripheral blood, and increased serum IgG levels. Moreover, with the adoptive transfer approach, we found that the B cell population was the major etiological factor and that the expression of Fas, a direct target of miR-146a, was significantly dampened in transgenic germinal center B cells. These results indicate that miR-146a may be involved in the pathogenesis of ALPS by targeting Fas and may therefore serve as a novel therapeutic target.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibody (ANCA)-associated vasculitis (AAV) is characterised by the autoinflammation and necrosis of blood vessel walls. The renal involvement is commonly characterised by a pauci-immune crescentic glomerulonephritis (PiCGN) with a very rapid decline in renal function. Cathelicidin LL37, an endogenous antimicrobial peptide, has recently been implicated in the pathogenesis of autoimmune diseases. To assess whether serum LL37 reflects renal crescentic formation, we measured the serum levels of LL37 in AAV patients with and without crescentic glomerulonephritis (crescentic GN) as compared to healthy controls (HCs). We also analysed the correlation of the serum levels of LL37 and interferon-α (IFN-α) with the clinical characteristics of the patients.
The study population consisted of 85 AAV patients and 51 HCs. In 40 ANCA-positive patients, a parallel analysis was performed, including the assessment of LL37 and IFN-α levels in the serum and renal biopsies. Of those studied, 15 AAV patients had biopsy-proven crescentic GN, and 25 AAV patients lacked crescent formation. The serum levels of cathelicidin LL37 and IFN-α were both measured by ELISA, and the clinical and serological parameters were assessed according to routine procedures. Immunofluorescence staining was performed on frozen sections of kidney needle biopsies from AAV patients with crescentic GN.
The serum levels of LL37 and IFN-α were significantly increased in AAV patients with crescentic GN compared to AAV patients without crescentic formation and HCs, and patients with high LL37 and IFN-α levels were more likely to be in the crescentic GN group. The LL37 levels were positively correlated with the IFN-α levels, and both LL37 and IFN-α levels showed a positive correlation with serum creatinine and no correlation with complement C3. The renal tissue of crescentic GN patients showed expression of LL37 and IFN-α at the Bowman's capsule and extracellular sites, suggesting the active release of LL37 and IFN-α.
Significantly higher levels of LL-37 and IFN-α were observed in AAV patients, particularly those with crescentic formation, and LL37 and IFN-α were expressed in the renal tissue of patients with crescentic GN. These data suggest that serum levels of LL37 and IFN-α may reflect both local renal inflammation and systemic inflammation.
Arthritis research & therapy 01/2013; 15(5):R161. · 4.27 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Rab GTPases have emerged as central regulators of vesicle trafficking and are essential for cytokine production during the pathogenesis of neuroinflammation. To characterize the roles of different Rab proteins in brain inflammation, we used quantitative PCR (qPCR) to examine the expression profiles of all members of the Rab family in an experimental model of brain inflammation in mice. We found that Rab20 and Rab32 were substantially up-regulated during the acute phase of inflammation. The increased expression of Rab20 was also confirmed by immunostaining of inflamed brains at different timepoints. The concomitant overexpression of Rabs (Rab20 and Rab32) and early response proinflammatory cytokines (TNF-α and IL-1β) suggested that these Rabs may be important for subsequent inflammatory responses in brain. Furthermore, we found that the expression of certain Rabs was dramatically reduced in cultured primary microglia, which was not observed in the in vivo profiling. In N9, a microglial cell line, however, there was no increase in the expression of Rab20 or Rab32, but Rab3c was significantly overexpressed. These results collectively indicate that Rabs may participate in inflammatory response in microglia during brain inflammation. The differential regulation of individual Rabs in different experimental systems is a caveat for the analysis of Rab functions.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Increasing evidence indicates that microRNAs (miRNAs) play a critical role in the pathogenesis of inflammatory diseases. The aim of the study was to investigate the expression pattern and function of miRNAs in CD4+ T cells from patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
The expression profile of miRNAs in CD4+ T cells from synovial fluid (SF) and peripheral blood of 33 RA patients was determined by microarray assay and validated by qRT-PCR analysis. The correlation between altered expression of miRNAs and cytokine levels was determined by linear regression analysis. The role of miR-146a overexpression in regulating T cell apoptosis was evaluated by flow cytometry. A genome-wide gene expression analysis was further performed to identify miR-146a-regulated genes in T cells.
miRNA expression profile analysis revealed that miR-146a expression was significantly upregulated while miR-363 and miR-498 were downregulated in CD4+ T cells of RA patients. The level of miR-146a expression was positively correlated with levels of tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha), and in vitro studies showed TNF-alpha upregulated miR-146a expression in T cells. Moreover, miR-146a overexpression was found to suppress Jurkat T cell apoptosis. Finally, transcriptome analysis of miR-146a overexpression in T cells identified Fas associated factor 1 (FAF1) as a miR-146a-regulated gene, which was critically involved in modulating T cell apoptosis.
We have detected increased miR-146a in CD4+ T cells of RA patients and its close correlation with TNF-alpha levels. Our findings that miR-146a overexpression suppresses T cell apoptosis indicate a role of miR-146a in RA pathogenesis and provide potential novel therapeutic targets.
Arthritis research & therapy 05/2010; 12(3):R81. · 4.27 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The receptor-binding domain (RBD) of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) spike (S) protein plays an important role in viral infection, and is a potential major neutralizing determinant. In this study, three hybridoma cell lines secreting specific monoclonal antibodies against the RBD of the S protein were generated and their exact binding sites were identified. Using yeast surface display, the binding sites of these antibodies were defined to two linear regions on the RBD: S(337-360) and S(380-399). Using these monoclonal antibodies in phage peptide library screening identified 10 distinct mimotopes 12 amino acids in length. Sequence comparison between native epitopes and these mimotopes further confirmed the binding sites, and revealed key amino acid residues involved in antibody binding. None of these antibodies could neutralize the murine leukemia virus pseudotyped expressing the SARS-CoV spike protein (MLV/SARS-CoV). However, these mAbs could be useful in the diagnosis of SARS-CoV due to their exclusive reactivity with SARS-CoV. Furthermore, this study established a feasible platform for epitope mapping. Yeast surface display combined with phage peptide library screening provides a convenient strategy for the identification of epitope peptides from certain antigenic proteins.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Antigen cross-presentation in dendritic cells is a complex intracellular membrane transport process, but the underlying molecular mechanisms remain to be thoroughly investigated. In this study, we examined the effect of siRNA-mediated knockdown of 57 Rab GTPases, the key regulators of membrane trafficking, on antigen cross-presentation. Twelve Rab GTPases were identified to be associated with antigen cross-presentation, and Rab3b/3c was indicated to be colocalized with MHC class I molecules at perinuclear tubular structure. Tracing with fluorescence protein-tagged beta(2)-microglobulin demonstrated that the MHC class I molecules were internalized from the plasma membrane to Rab3b/3c-positive compartments, which were also colocalized with the internalized transferrin. Moreover, depletion of Rab3b/3c strongly reduced the fast phase recycling rate of transferrin receptors. Furthermore, the Rab3b/3c-positive compartments were colocalized with a fraction of Rab27a at a juxtaposition of phagosomes. Together, these data demonstrate that Rab3b/3c-positive recycling vesicles are involved in and may constitute one of the recycling compartments in exogenous antigen cross-presentation.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 09/2009; 106(37):15801-6. · 9.74 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The HBx (hepatitis B virus X protein) is a multifunctional regulator of cellular signal transduction and transcription pathways in host-infected cells. Evidence suggests that HBx has a critical role in the pathogenesis of hepatocellular carcinoma. However, the lack of efficient large-scale preparation methods for soluble HBx has hindered studies on the structure and function of HBx. Here, a new pMAL-c2x protein fusion and purification system was used for high-level expression of soluble HBx fusion protein. The high-purity fusion protein was obtained via amylose resin chromatography and Q-Sepharose chromatography. The untagged HBx was efficiently and rapidly purified by Sephadex G-75 chromatography after cleavage by Factor Xa at 23 degrees C. The purity of active HBx protein was >99% with a very stable secondary structure dominated by alpha-helix, beta-sheet and random structure. The purified HBx protein can be analysed to determine its crystal structure and function and its capabilities as an effective immunogen.
Biotechnology and Applied Biochemistry 07/2009; 54(3):141-7. · 1.35 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Dendritic cell (DC) specific transgenic mice are a most important model for investigating dendritic cell functions in vivo. Recently, lentivirus mediated gene transfer has become a powerful and convenient method for generation of transgenic mice. We cloned a 1.2 kb CD11c promoter and constructed a lentiviral vector, which efficiently drove DC-specific expression in vitro. After microinjection of purified virus into the perivitelline space of single-cell embryo, more than 80% newborn mice were transgenic and 7 F0 founders were rapidly generated in 2 months. GFP was strictly expressed in CD11c+ cells in spleens, thymus and lymph nodes of the transgenic mice. Importantly, the physiological characteristics and functions of DCs in the transgenic mice were not altered by the specific expression. These results indicate that this vector could be used to rapidly prepare DC-specific transgenic mice. Thus, this lentiviral vector system may provide a convenient and useful tool to study the properties of DCs in vivo.
Transgenic Research 06/2009; 18(6):921-31. · 2.61 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: To warrant potential clinical testing, the equine anti-severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) F(ab')(2) requires evaluation in as many animal models as possible. In this study, we established a new animal model, the Chinese hamster, susceptible to SARS-CoV infection. SARS-CoV could propagate effectively and sustain high levels for 1 wk in animal lungs. All animals were protected from SARS-CoV infection in preventive settings. Further, when used therapeutically this antibody led to an approximately 4-log(10) decrease in viral burden in infected animal lungs. The pathological changes in lungs correlated closely with the dose of antibody administered. The excellent preventive and therapeutic roles of equine anti-SARS-CoV F(ab')(2) in several animal models, including the novel Chinese hamster model described in this study, have provided exciting data concerning its potential clinical study.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Patients with cancer frequently develop autoantibodies. The identification of tumor autoantigens may have utility in early cancer diagnosis and immunotherapy. In this study, we used serological proteomics analysis (SERPA) to identify tumor proteins that elicit humoral response in colorectal cancer (CRC). The CRC cell line HCT116 was used as a source of proteins for 2-DE and subsequent Western blot analysis in which individual serum from patients with CRC was analyzed for autoantibodies. An autoantibody against HSP60 identified by MS was detected in 13 out of 25 patients with CRC and 1 out of 15 healthy subjects. In addition, the HSP60 expressions in tumor tissues collected from 40 patients with CRC were assessed by immunohistochemistry, and serum specimens from 100 patients with cancer and 30 healthy controls were screened for antibody titer to HSP60 by ELISA. The results showed that expressions of HSP60 in tumor tissue and serum antibody titer to HSP60 were significantly higher in patients with CRC than in healthy subjects. Thus, we conclude that the SERPA is an excellent assay for the identification of tumor-associated antigens and tumor markers. The detection of HSP60 may have clinical utility in CRC screening, diagnosis, and immunotherapy.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: To study the function of S100A9 protein in HL-60 cells treated with all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA), we had designed and constructed retroviral vectors for expression of small hairpin RNAs (shRNAs), and silenced S100A9 expression in HL-60 cells treated with ATRA. The silence efficiency of siRNA was detected with RT-PCR and Western blotting. The differentiation of HL-60 was monitored by nitro blue tetrazolium (NBT) reduction experiment. Western blot showed that shRNAs remarkably reduce of S100A9 expression in HL-60 cells when they were induced to differentiation by ATRA. But NBT positive percentage of differentiated HL-60 cells was no remarked change with S100A9 expression. The data indicated S100A9 could be no important action during differentiation of HL-60 treated with ATRA.
Leukemia Research 09/2006; 30(8):1013-7. · 2.76 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Triptolide has been used extensively in China for the treatment of autoimmune diseases and tumor for many centuries. Nevertheless, little is known about its exact immunosuppressive and anti-inflammatory properties. Increasing recognition of the importance of renal tubular epithelial cells (TECs) in renal diseases raises the question whether triptolide can regulate TEC activity. In this study, various cultured human and murine TECs were exposed to tumor necrotic factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) and triptolide, followed to examine the expression of B7-H1 and B7-DC. Flow cytometric analysis revealed that B7-H1 but not B7-DC constitutively expresses on TECs, and the B7-H1 protein expression was profoundly up-regulated by the stimulation of TNF-alpha with a dose-dependent manner. However, triptolide under non-cytotoxic concentration could down-regulate B7-H1 expression on activated TECs at both mRNA and protein level. This effect was transcription factor NF-kappaB dependent. Interestingly, the significant damping effect of triptolide on B7-H1 signal could promote interleukin-2 production by T cell hybridoma (C10) after antigen presentation and enhance cytokine (IFN-gamma and IL-2) secretion by anti-CD3 activated T cells. Our results indicated that triptolide could regulate TEC activity via B7-H1, in addition to previously reported it directly affects the production of some inflammatory factors by T cells, tumor cells and peripheral blood mononuclear cells.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Renal tubular epithelial cells (TECs) function as antigen-presenting cells (APCs) as they constitutively express MHC-II molecules and have the capacity to present peptide antigen to T cells. Nevertheless, co-stimulatory signals provided by TECs for regulating T cell activation have not been fully characterized. We therefore investigated the expression of B7-H1, a member of the B7 superfamily, on TECs under normal or pathologic conditions in vivo and analyzed the regulation and functional role of it after proinflammatory factors treatment in vitro.
Immunohistological staining for B7-H1 on cryostat sections of core needle biopsies from patients with different renal diseases was examined. Furthermore, we also detected B7-H1 protein expression on cultured human TECs stimulated by various inflammatory factors and performed TEC/T-cell co-cultured experiment to determine TEC-associated B7-H1 in regulating CD4+ T cell activation as well as antigen presentation.
Significant B7-H1 protein was detected in TECs of diseased renal samples. Although the presence of B7-H1 does not have any correlation with clinicopathological variables, marked B7-H1 expression on sections without interstitial inflammation revealed that B7-H1 has some protective function. In vitro, the expression of B7-H1 on TECs was increased after TECs were stimulated with IL-1alpha, LPS, TNF-alpha, IFN-gamma or anti-CD40. Co-cultured experiments revealed that TEC-related B7-H1 was identified as a strong inhibitor of CD4+ T-cell activation as assessed by increased cytokine production (interleukin-2 and interferon-gamma) and expression levels of the T cell activation marker (CD69) in the presence of a neutralizing antibody against B7-H1 (clone MIH1). Interestingly, IL-2 production by C10 T cells after antigen presentation by murine TECs was also enhanced when the B7-H1/PD-1 pathway was interrupted.
This study clearly shows that B7-H1 is an inducible renal tubular epithelial antigen that inhibits T cell activation. It is speculated that B7-H1/PD-1 pathway might play a role in protecting tubular epithelium from immune-mediated damage and active delivery of the B7-H1 inhibitory signal represents a novel therapeutic strategy in autoimmune renal diseases.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Renal tubular epithelial cells (TECs) function as antigen-presenting cells because they constitutively express MHC class II molecules and have the ability to present peptide antigen to CD4+T cells. However, the costimulatory signals provided by TECs for optimal T-cell activation have not been fully characterized. Increasing recognition of the importance of B7 dendritic cells (B7-DC) in immunoregulation raises the question of whether B7-DC is expressed on TECs and is involved in regulating TEC function.
B7-DC on cultured human and murine TECs was detected by flow cytometry in vitro. Immunohistochemistry was performed on human kidney biopsies. Coculture experiments were performed to confirm the role of TEC-related B7-DC in regulating CD4+T-cell activation.
Data revealed that B7-DC is specifically expressed on TECs with inflammatory factor induced and diseased human kidney samples, including chronic glomerulonephritis, lupus nephritis, tubulointerstitial nephritis and renal cell carcinoma. B7-DC was a strong inhibitor of CD4+T-cell activation, as assessed by increased cytokine (interferon-gamma and interleukin-2) production and enhanced levels of T-cell activation marker CD69 in the presence of its blocking antibody. Blocking B7-DC/PD-1 enhanced antigen presentation. B7-DC is especially well expressed on TECs of diseased kidney samples and significantly down-regulates T-cell activation.
We speculate that B7-DC might play an important role in maintaining peripheral tolerance, and in protecting the epithelium from immune-mediated tubulointerstitial injury.
Journal of nephrology 01/2006; 19(4):429-38. · 2.02 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The immune system plays an important role in the treatment of chronic myeloid leukemia (CML). Identification of leukemia-associated antigens (LAAs) eliciting an immune response in patients is a prerequisite for specific immunotherapy of CML. To identify new LAAs in CML, We utilized a novel approach based serology and proteomics technologies. LAAs were identified by comparing the reactivity of proteins resolved by 2-DE with sera from CML patients and healthy donors. Several new LAAs were identified including alpha enolase, aldolase A, HSP70 protein8, beta-tubulin and tropomyosin isoforms. Although, the functions of these identified proteins in CML need further investigation, the detection of autoantibodies in CML may have value on CML screening, diagnosis, or follow-up. Additionally, identification of LAAs in CML may also be of vital importance in antigen-based immunotherapy.
Leukemia Research 01/2006; 29(12):1387-91. · 2.76 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The epidemic outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) posed a worldwide threat to public health and economic stability. Although the pandemic has been contained, concerns over its recurrence remain. It is essential to identify specific diagnostic agents and antiviral vaccine candidates to fight this highly contagious disease.
We generated 14 monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) specific to the SARS coronavirus (SARS-CoV) nucleocapsid (N) protein and used these to thoroughly map the N protein antigenic determinants. We identified the immunodominant antigenic sites responsible for the antibodies in sera from SARS patients and antisera from small animals and differentiated the linear from the conformational antibody-combining sites comprising the natural epitopes by use of yeast surface display.
We identified 5 conformational and 3 linear epitopes within the entire N protein; 3 conformational and 3 linear epitopes were immunodominant. The antibody responses to the N protein fragments in mammalian sera revealed that 3 regions of the N protein are strong antigenic domains. We expanded the specificity of the N protein epitope and identified 4 novel conformational epitopes (amino acids 1-69, 68-213, 212-341, and 337-422).
The antigenic structures identified for the SARS-CoV N protein, the epitope-specific mAbs, and the serum antibody profile in SARS patients have potential use in the clinical diagnosis and understanding of the protective immunity to SARS-CoV.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Previous studies have shown that sinomenine possesses potent immunoregulatory properties. However, little is known about its exact mechanisms of action. Increasing recognition of the importance of renal tubular epithelial cells (TECs) in renal diseases raises the question whether sinomenine can regulate TEC activity. In this study, cultured human TECs were exposed to proinflammatory factors interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) and tumor necrotic factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) in presence or absence of sinomenine for 72 h, followed by analysis of surface expression of costimulatory molecules. Flow cytometric analysis revealed that various costimulatory molecules were expressed on TECs and that they were significantly up-regulated by the simulation of IFN-gamma and TNF-alpha. However, sinomenine especially down-regulated B7-H1 and B7-DC expression on TECs at both mRNA and protein levels. Moreover, the significant damping effect of sinomenine on B7-H1 and B7-DC signals could promote IL-2 and IFN-gamma production by co-cultured CD4(+) T cell. Our results indicated that sinomenine could regulate TECs activity via B7-H1 and B7-DC, in addition to previously reported its effects on some pro-inflammatory factors production by macrophages and peripheral blood mononuclear cells.
International Immunopharmacology 09/2005; 5(9):1446-57. · 2.42 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: It has been shown that exogenous antigens can access the MHC class I pathway of professional antigen-processing cells. However, details as to how the MHC class I-peptide complex forms in the presentation pathway are still poorly understood. Here we used MHC class I-peptide-specific antibodies to investigate the formation and intracellular location of class I-peptide complexes in macrophages. We observed that the formation of class I-peptide complexes occurs within a few hours and lasts for another few hours on the cell surface of macrophages following loading with filamentous phage particles. The class I-peptide complexes in the process were co-localized with MHC class II molecules and endocytic system markers. Moreover, endosomal compartments containing class I-peptide complexes were found within intracellular organelles stained by DiOC6 and calnexin. In addition, the cross-presentation of phage particles was transporter associated with antigen processing (TAP)-dependent and sensitive to proteasome inhibitors and NH(4)Cl. These data suggest that endocytosed phage particles may be processed and cross-presented in organelles positive for phagosome and endoplasmic reticulum (ER) markers via a classical ER MHC class I loading mechanism.
European Journal of Immunology 08/2005; 35(7):2041-50. · 4.97 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: It is necessary to evaluate the cytokine secretion status of CD8+ T lymphocytes and elucidate the factors influencing cytokine secretion, because the secretion of cytokines is also an important feature of CD8+ T lymphocytes, and the cytokines usually play critical roles in the outcome of diseases. We showed here that peptide AYRPPNAPI, derived from the core antigen of hepatitis B virus (HBV), could bind to H-2 Kd and induce primed splenocytes from HBcAg expression plasmid-immunized mice to produce gamma interferon (IFN-gamma) in H-2 Kd- and CD8-dependent manners instead of in a CD4-dependent manner. The induced cells were mainly CD3 and CD8 positive but had no cytotoxic effect on the corresponding target cells. When administered into HBV transgenic mice, these cells can decrease the serum HBV load without causing liver damage. These results suggest that this peptide is a special kind of CD8+ T-cell epitope, for which specific CD8+ T cells can produce IFN-gamma when antigenic stimulation is encountered but which have no cytotoxic effect on the corresponding target cells both in vitro and in HBV transgenic mice. This phenomenon indicates initially that the functional mechanisms of CD8+ T cells can be determined by their epitope specificity, which may be associated with the development of epitope-based immunotherapeutic approaches for infectious diseases and tumors.
Journal of Virology 06/2005; 79(9):5568-76. · 5.08 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Hepatitis B virus (HBV)-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) are thought to play key roles in viral control and liver damage. We have used HLA-A*02 tetramer complex to human HBV core 18-27 (Tc 18-27), envelope 183-191 (Te 183-191), envelope 335-343 (Te 335-343), and polymerase 575-583 (Tp 575-583) epitopes to characterize HLA class I-restricted CD8+ T cells in active chronic HBV infection. The frequencies of specific epitopes circulating tetramer+ cells were determined in whole-blood samples by analysis of flow cytometry. The correlation of HBV epitope-specific CTL, between viral replication and liver damage, was analyzed by multiple regression. Our data shown that HBV-specific CD8+ T cells can be easily detected in peripheral blood of active chronic HBV infections. No significant correlation was found between either the frequency of HBV-specific CD8+ T cells and the viral load, or the frequency of HBV-specific CD8+ T cells and the levels of alanine transaminase. These results suggest that the existence of epitope-specific HBV CTLs are not directly correlated to hepatocyte injury, and the frequencies of HBV-specific T cells are not determinant of immune-mediated protection in chronic HBV infection.