Mutations in Hepatitis D Virus Allow It to Escape Detection by CD8+ T Cells and Evolve at the Population Level

Hadi Karimzadeh, Muthamia M. Kiraithe, Valerie Oberhardt, Elahe Salimi Alizei, Jan Bockmann, Julian Schulze zur Wiesch, Bettina Budeus, Daniel Hoffmann, Heiner Wedemeyer, Markus Cornberg, Adalbert Krawczyk, Jassin Rashidi-Alavijeh, Francisco Rodríguez-Frías, Rosario Casillas, Maria Buti, Antonina Smedile, Seyed Moayed Alavian, Andreas Heinold, Florian Emmerich, Marcus PanningEmma Gostick, David A. Price, Jörg Timm, Maike Hofmann, Bijan Raziorrouh, Robert Thimme, Ulrike Protzer, Michael Roggendorf, Christoph Neumann-Haefelin

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearch

    23 Citations (Scopus)


    © 2019 AGA Institute Background & Aims: Hepatitis D virus (HDV) superinfection in patients with hepatitis B virus (HBV) is associated with rapid progression to liver cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. Treatment options are limited, and no vaccine is available. Although HDV-specific CD8+ T cells are thought to control the virus, little is known about which HDV epitopes are targeted by virus-specific CD8+ T cells or why these cells ultimately fail to control the infection. We aimed to define how HDV escapes the CD8+ T-cell–mediated response. Methods: We collected plasma and DNA samples from 104 patients with chronic HDV and HBV infection at medical centers in Europe and the Middle East, sequenced HDV, typed human leukocyte antigen (HLA) class I alleles from patients, and searched for polymorphisms in HDV RNA associated with specific HLA class I alleles. We predicted epitopes in HDV that would be recognized by CD8+ T cells and corresponded with the identified virus polymorphisms in patients with resolved (n = 12) or chronic (n = 13) HDV infection. Results: We identified 21 polymorphisms in HDV that were significantly associated with specific HLA class I alleles (P <.005). Five of these polymorphisms were found to correspond to epitopes in HDV that are recognized by CD8+ T cells; we confirmed that CD8+ T cells in culture targeted these HDV epitopes. HDV variant peptides were only partially cross-recognized by CD8+ T cells isolated from patients, indicating that the virus had escaped detection by these cells. These newly identified HDV epitopes were restricted by relatively infrequent HLA class I alleles, and they bound most frequently to HLA-B. In contrast, frequent HLA class I alleles were not associated with HDV sequence polymorphisms. Conclusions: We analyzed sequences of HDV RNA and HLA class I alleles that present epitope peptides to CD8+ T cells in patients with persistent HDV infection. We identified polymorphisms in the HDV proteome that associate with HLA class I alleles. Some variant peptides in epitopes from HDV were only partially recognized by CD8+ T cells isolated from patients; these could be mutations that allow HDV to escape the immune response, resulting in persistent infection. HDV escape from the immune response was associated with uncommon HLA class I alleles, indicating that HDV evolves, at the population level, to evade recognition by common HLA class I alleles.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1820-1833
    Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2019


    • Antigen Presentation
    • Cytotoxic T Cell
    • MHC Class I
    • TCR


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