Associations between HLA class I alleles and escape mutations in the hepatitis B virus core gene in New Zealand-resident Tongans.
The full repertoire of hepatitis B virus (HBV) peptides that bind to the common HLA class I molecules found in areas with a high prevalence of chronic HBV infection has not been determined. This information may be useful for designing immunotherapies for chronic hepatitis B. We identified amino acid residues under positive selection pressure in the HBV core gene by phylogenetic analysis of cloned DNA sequences obtained from HBV DNA extracted from the sera of Tongan subjects with inactive, HBeAg-negative chronic HBV infections. The repertoires of positively selected sites in groups of subjects who were homozygous for either HLA-B*4001 (n = 10) or HLA-B*5602 (n = 7) were compared. We identified 13 amino acid sites under positive selection pressure. A significant association between an HLA class I allele and the presence of nonsynonymous mutations was found at five of these sites. HLA-B*4001 was associated with mutations at E77 (P = 0.05) and E113 (P = 0.002), and HLA-B*5602 was associated with mutations at S21 (P = 0.02). In addition, amino acid mutations at V13 (P = 0.03) and E14 (P = 0.01) were more common in the seven subjects with an HLA-A*02 allele. In summary, we have developed an assay that can identify associations between HLA class I alleles and HBV core gene amino acids that mutate in response to selection pressure. This is consistent with published evidence that CD8(+) T cells have a role in suppressing viral replication in inactive, HBeAg-negative chronic HBV infection. This assay may be useful for identifying the clinically significant HBV peptides that bind to common HLA class I molecules.
Abbott, WGH; Tsai, P; Leung, E; Trevarton, A; Ofanoa, M; Hornell, J; Gane, EJ; Munn, SR; Rodrigo, AG
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