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Hepatitis B envelope antigen increases Tregs by converting CD4+CD25 T cells into CD4+CD25+Foxp3+ Tregs

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Hepatitis B virus (HBV) can establish a lifelong chronic infection in humans, leading to liver cirrhosis, liver failure and hepatocellular carcinoma. Patients with chronic hepatitis B (CHB) exhibit a weak virusspecific immune response. Regulatory T cells (Tregs) play a key role in regulating the immune response in patients with CHB. Patients with hepatitis B envelope antigen (HBeAg)positive CHB harbored a higher percentage of Tregs in their peripheral blood than those with HBeAgnegative CHB. However, whether and how HBeAg manipulates the host immune system to increase the population of Tregs remains to be elucidated. The present manuscript describes a preliminary immunological study of HBeAg in a mouse model. Multiple potential CD4+ T cell epitopes in HBeAg were identified using Immune Epitope Database consensus binding prediction. It was demonstrated that HBeAg treatment increased the numbers of Tregs in mouse spleens in vitro and in vivo. Furthermore, it was indicated that the HBeAgmediated increase in Tregs occurred through the conversion of CD4+CD25 T cells into CD4+CD25+Foxp3+ Tregs. Additionally, in vitro study illustrated that HBeAg stimulated murine spleen cells to produce increased transforming growth factorβ, which is required to enable HBeAg to convert T cells into Tregs. The results of the present study may provide further evidence of the effect of HBeAg on Tregs and aid in the development of novel HBeAgbased immunotherapy for CHB.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: State Key Laboratory of Reproductive Medicine, Department of Pathogen Biology and Immunology, Jiangsu Key Laboratory of Pathogen Biology, Center for Global Health, Nanjing Medical University, Nanjing, Jiangsu 211166, P.R. China

Publication date: October 1, 2020

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  • Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine aims to ensure the expedient publication, in both print and electronic format, of studies relating to biology, gene therapy, infectious disease, microbiology, molecular cardiology and molecular surgery. The journal welcomes studies pertaining to all aspects of molecular medicine, and studies relating to in vitro or in vivo experimental model systems relevant to the mechanisms of disease are also included.

    All materials submitted to this journal undergo the appropriate review via referees who are experts in this field. All materials submitted follow international guidelines with regard to approval of experiments on humans and animals.
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