In this study we have examined the density of HLA class I protein display on the hepatocytes of patients with HBe antigen (HBeAg) or anti-HBe (HBeAb) positive chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection and related this to the level of interferon activation of these cells determined by measuring hepatic oligo 2-5A synthetase activity. In HBeAg positive patients the density of HLA class I (HLA-I) protein was not significantly increased above that found in uninfected liver, but levels of 2-5A synthetase were twice normal. In anti-HBe positive patients, HLA-I density was markedly increased in the presence of normal 2-5A synthetase activity. These data are consistent with type I (α or β) interferon activation of the hepatocytes in HBeAg positive patients and type II (γ) interferon activity in anti-HBe positive subjects.
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