Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 24371056
J. Virol. 2014 Mar;88(5):3004-15
We previously reported a proof-of-concept study for curing chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection using a foreign-antigen recombinant HBV (rHBV) as a gene therapy vector. Targeted elimination of wild-type HBV (wtHBV)-infected cells could be achieved by functionally activating an in situ T-cell response against the foreign antigen. However, as chronic HBV infection spreads to all hepatocytes, specific targeting of virus-infected cells is thought to be less critical. It is also feared that rHBV may not induce active immunization in a setting resembling natural infection. For this immunotherapeutic approach to be practically viable, in the present study, we used a recombinant adenovirus (rAd) vector for rHBV delivery. The rAd vector allowed efficient transduction of wtHBV-producing HepG2 cells, with transferred rHBV undergoing dominant viral replication. Progeny rHBV virions proved to be infectious, as demonstrated in primary tupaia hepatocytes. These results greatly expanded the antiviral capacity of the replication-defective rAd/rHBV in wtHBV-infected liver tissue. With prior priming in the periphery, transduction with rAd/rHBV attracted a substantial influx of the foreign-antigen-specific T-effector cells into the liver. Despite the fully activated T-cell response, active expression of rHBV was observed for a prolonged time, which is essential for rHBV to achieve sustained expansion. In a mouse model of HBV persistence established by infection with a recombinant adeno-associated virus carrying the wtHBV genome, rAd/rHBV-based immunotherapy elicited a foreign-antigen-specific T-cell response that triggered effective viral clearance and subsequent seroconversion to HBV. It therefore represents an efficient strategy to overcome immune tolerance, thereby eliminating chronic HBV infection.