HBsAg inhibits TLR9-mediated activation and IFN-alpha production in plasmacytoid dendritic cells

Yongfen Xu, Yunwen Hu, Bisheng Shi, Xiaonan Zhang, Jiefei Wang, Zhanqing Zhang, Fang Shen, Qin Zhang, Shuhui Sun, Zhenghong Yuan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

160 Citations (Scopus)


Plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDCs), the professional producers of type I interferons (IFN-alpha/beta), play a pivotal role in innate and adaptive immune responses against viral infections. Although functional impairment of circulating pDCs in chronic hepatitis B (CHB) patients has been reported previously, the mechanism responsible for these defects remains unclear. We hypothesize that HBsAg circulating in high amounts during HBV infection may interact with pDC and contribute to pDC dysfunction. In support of this hypothesis we show that pDCs treated with HBsAg secreted much less IFN-alpha than control pDCs. Furthermore, suppression is specific for TLR9, with no effects upon TLR7-mediated IFN-alpha secretion. HBsAg inhibited TLR9-mediated IRF-7 expression and nuclear translocation, which are important for induction of IFN-alpha gene transcription. HBsAg upregulated the SOCS-1 expression and bound to BDCA-2 receptors on the plasma membrane of pDCs, resulting in the inhibition of the IFN-alpha production. In conclusion, the above data suggested that HBsAg may directly interfere with the function of pDC through HBsAg-mediated upregulation of SOCS-1 expression and BDCA-2 ligation, which could partially explain how HBV evades the immune system to establish a persistent infection.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2640-6
Number of pages7
JournalMolecular Immunology
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2009
Externally publishedYes


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