To explore the mechanisms underlying liver-directed autoimmune reactions in acute Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) infection, we followed five subjects who were identified in the early incubation phase (30-70 days before the first elevation of transaminases). We assessed serially cellular (using a T-lymphocyte migration inhibitory factor assay) and humoral (RIA) immunity to LSP (a macromolecular, liver-derived lipoprotein complex) and hepatic lectin (HL), the liver-specific receptor for desialylated glycoproteins, which appears to be a major target antigen for autoreactions in autoimmune chronic active hepatitis. Anti-LSP and anti-HL autoantibodies were found, at some stage during acute HBV infection, in 4 5 subjects, whereas cellular immunity to the same antigens was detected in only two patients. Sustained production of anti-HL antibodies was noted only in patients showing cellular immunity to this antigen and was apparently secondary to liver damage, whereas anti-LSP antibodies were first detected at the onset of liver injury when there was no evidence of T-cell immunity to the same antigenic complex. One explanation for this apparent dichotomy between cellular and humoral responses to LSP is that a helper T-cell response to the major envelope component of HBV, HBsAg, which precedes by 10-20 days the development of anti-LSP antibodies, promotes a humoral reaction to autoantigens contained in the LSP preparation, coexpressed with HBsAg, on the surface of infected hepatocytes.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Allergy