Characterization of the Specificity, Functionality, and Durability of Host TCell Responses Against the Full-Length Hepatitis E Virus

Brown Anthony, John S. Halliday, Leo Swadling, Richie G. Madden, Richard Bendall, Jeremy G. Hunter, James Maggs, Peter Simmonds, Donald B. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The interplay between host antiviral immunity and immunopathology during hepatitis E virus (HEV) infection determines important clinical outcomes. We characterized the specificity, functionality, and durability of host T-cell responses against the full-length HEV virus and assessed a novel “Quantiferon” assay for the rapid diagnosis of HEV infection. Eighty-nine volunteers were recruited from Oxford, Truro (UK), and Toulouse (France), including 44 immune-competent patients with acute HEV infection, 18 HEV-exposed immunosuppressed organ-transplant recipients (8 with chronic HEV), and27 healthy volunteers. A genotype 3a peptide library (616 overlapping peptides spanning open reading frames [ORFs] 1-3) was used in interferon-gamma (IFN-c) T-cell ELISpot assays. CD41/CD81 T-cell subsets and polyfunctionality were defined using ICCS and SPICE analysis. Quantification of IFN-c used whole-blood stimulation with recombinant HEVcapsid protein in the QuantiFERON kit. HEV-specific T-cell responses were detected in 41/44 immune-competent HEV exposed volunteers (median magnitude: 397 spot-forming units/106 peripheral blood mononuclear cells), most frequentlytargeting ORF2. High-magnitude, polyfunctional CD4 and CD81 T cells were detected during acute disease and maintained to 12 years, but these declined over time, with CD81 responses becoming more monofunctional. Low-level responses were detectable in immunosuppressed patients. Twenty-three novel HEV CD41 and CD81 T-cell targets were mapped predominantly to conserved genomic regions. QuantiFERON testing demonstrated an inverse correlation between IFN-c production and the time from clinical presentation, providing 100% specificity, and 71% sensitivity (area under the receiver operator characteristic curve of 0.86) for HEV exposure at 0.3 IU/mL. Conclusion: Robust HEV-specific T-cell responses generated during acute disease predominantly target ORF2, but decline in magnitude and polyfunctionality over time. Defining HEV T-cell targets will be important for the investigation of HEV-associated autoimmune disease. (HEPATOLOGY 2016; 00:000-000).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1934–1950
Number of pages17
Issue number6
Early online date28 Oct 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2016
Externally publishedYes


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