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Raziorrouh, Bijan; Heeg, Malte; Kurktschiev, Peter; Schraut, Winfried; Zachoval, Reinhart; Wendtner, Clemens; Wächtler, Martin; Spannagl, Michael; Denk, Gerald; Ulsenheimer, Axel; Bengsch, Bertram; Pircher, Hanspeter; Diepolder, Helmut M.; Grüner, Norbert H.; Jung, Maria-Christina (2014): Inhibitory Phenotype of HBV-Specific CD4⁺ T-Cells Is Characterized by High PD-1 Expression but Absent Coregulation of Multiple Inhibitory Molecules.
In: PLOS ONE 9(8), e105703
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Abstract

Background: T-cell exhaustion seems to play a critical role in CD8(+) T-cell dysfunction during chronic viral infections. However, up to now little is known about the mechanisms underlying CD4(+) T-cell dysfunction during chronic hepatitis B virus (CHB) infection and the role of inhibitory molecules such as programmed death 1 (PD-1) for CD4(+) T-cell failure. Methods: The expression of multiple inhibitory molecules such as PD-1, CTLA-4, TIM-3, CD244, KLRG1 and markers defining the grade of T-cell differentiation as CCR7, CD45RA, CD57 and CD127 were analyzed on virus-specific CD4(+) T-cells from peripheral blood using a newly established DRB1*01-restricted MHC class II Tetramer. Effects of in vitro PD-L1/2 blockade were defined by investigating changes in CD4(+) T-cell proliferation and cytokine production. Results: CD4(+) T-cell responses during chronic HBV infection was characterized by reduced Tetramer(+)CD4(+) T-cell frequencies, effector memory phenotype, sustained PD-1 but low levels of CTLA-4, TIM-3, KLRG1 and CD244 expression. PD-1 blockade revealed individualized patterns of in vitro responsiveness with partly increased IFN-gamma, IL-2 and TNF-alpha secretion as well as enhanced CD4(+) T-cell expansion almost in treated patients with viral control. Conclusion: HBV-specific CD4(+) T-cells are reliably detectable during different courses of HBV infection by MHC class II Tetramer technology. CD4(+) T-cell dysfunction during chronic HBV is basically linked to strong PD-1 upregulation but absent coregulation of multiple inhibitory receptors. PD-L1/2 neutralization partly leads to enhanced CD4(+) T-cell functionality with heterogeneous patterns of CD4(+) T-cell rejunivation.