Article

High serum IL-21 levels after 12weeks of antiviral therapy predict HBeAg seroconversion in chronic hepatitis B

Hepatology Unit and Key Lab for Organ Failure Research, Nanfang Hospital, Southern Medical University, No. 1838, North Guangzhou Avenue, Guangzhou 510515, China.
Journal of Hepatology (Impact Factor: 11.34). 12/2011; 56(4):775-81. DOI: 10.1016/j.jhep.2011.10.020
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT

Interleukin-21 (IL-21) stimulates T cell and B cell responses and plays a role in control of chronic viral infections. The role of IL-21 in chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection is not understood.
Serum IL-21 levels were measured by enzyme immunoassay in 75 HBeAg-positive chronic hepatitis B (CHB) patients undergoing telbivudine treatment. The findings were validated in 103 patients from a separate clinical trial of telbivudine. A complete response to telbivudine was defined as having both HBeAg seroconversion and serum HBV-DNA level <300 copies/ml by treatment week 52. The proportions of T-cells producing IL-21 and/or expressing programmed death 1 (PD-1) in peripheral blood mononuclear cells were assessed longitudinally during treatment by intracellular cytokine staining and flow cytometry.
Median serum IL-21 levels at treatment week 12 were significantly higher in patients who did achieve vs. patients who did not achieve a complete response in both the initial (128.4 vs. 69.2 pg/ml, p=0.003) and the validation (142.2 vs. 89.9 pg/ml, p=0.004) trials. Serum levels of IL-21 (p=0.005) or HBV-DNA (p=0.003) levels at treatment week 12 independently predicted HBeAg seroconversion in the first year of treatment. The decrease in PD-1 expression on CD4(+) and CD8(+) T cells during the first 12 weeks on telbivudine treatment was not correlated with changes in IL-21 concentrations.
Serum IL-21 levels may be a biomarker for HBeAg seroconversion, and may contribute to individualization of antiviral therapy in HBeAg-positive CHB. IL-21 may also have a role in immunotherapy for CHB.

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Available from: Nikolai V Naoumov
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