The Characteristics of Natural Killer Cells in Chronic Hepatitis B Patients Who Received PEGylated-Interferon versus Entecavir Therapy

Weihua Cao, Minghui Li, Lu Zhang, Yao Lu, Shuling Wu, Ge Shen, Min Chang, Ruyu Liu, Yuanjiao Gao, Hongxiao Hao, Leiping Hu, Wei Yi, Calvin Q. Pan, Yao Xie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Background. To explore the role of natural killer (NK) cells in the process of hepatitis B virus (HBV) clearance and whether their phenotype is related to antiviral treatment outcome in chronic hepatitis B (CHB) patients. Method. We performed a single-center prospective cohort study to analyze changes of NK cells at weeks 12 and 24 from baseline in CHB patients who received PEGylated-interferon- (PEG-IFN-) α-2a versus entecavir. The frequencies of NK, CD56bright, CD56dim, IFNAR2+, NKp46+, NKp46bright, and NKp46dim NK cells and mean fluorescence intensity (MFI) of receptors NKp46 and IFNAR2 on the surface of NK cells were measured. Subgroup analyses were performed by comparing treatment responders versus nonresponders with aforementioned parameters in each group. Results. In PEG-IFN-α-treated patients, posttreatment CD56bright NK cell frequency increased, but CD56dim NK cell frequency decreased. Additionally, receptor NKp46 and IFNAR2 expression enhanced. In entecavir-treated patients, although NK cell frequency increased, CD56bright and CD56dim NK cell frequencies and IFNAR2 expression did not differ between baseline and posttreatment. In subgroup analyses, posttreatment CD56bright NK cell frequency and IFNAR2 expression significantly increased in PEG-IFN-α responders from baseline, while changes were absent in PEG-IFN-α nonresponders and entecavir treatment responders. Among patients with HBV viremia after entecavir therapy, NK cell frequency significantly increased, whereas NKp46bright and IFNAR2+ NK frequency and IFNAR2 MFI significantly decreased at 12 and 24 weeks from baseline. Conclusions. In CHB patients, PEG-IFN-α treatment significantly enhanced NK cell frequency and function when compared to entacavir. Positive treatment responses to either interferon or entecavir were associated with NK cell function improvement. This trial is registered with clinical trial registration no. NCT03208998.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2178143
JournalBioMed Research International
StatePublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes


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