Interferon alpha (IFN-α) has been proven effective in treating chronic hepatitis B (CHB) due to its capability to suppress hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) and hepatitis B virus (HBV) covalently closed circular DNA (cccDNA). However, the underlying mechanisms are blurred.
We investigated the antiviral activities of exosomes from responders and non-responders to pegylated IFN-α (PegIFN-α) as well as the supernatants of IFN-α-treated THP-1 (the human leukemia monocyte cell line) derived macrophages. Then the expression profiles of exosomal microRNAs (miRNAs) were analyzed using miRNA sequencing. The luciferase reporter assay was used to locate the binding position of HBV genomic sequence targeted by the identified miRNA.
Exosomes from PegIFN-α treated patients particularly responders as well as the supernatants of IFN-α-treated macrophages exhibited anti-HBV activities as manifested by the suppression of HBsAg, hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg), HBV DNA and cccDNA levels in HBV related cell lines. PegIFN-α treatment upregulated exosomal hsa-miR-193a-5p, hsa-miR-25-5p, and hsa-miR-574-5p that could partially inhibit HBV replication and transcription. Hsa-miR-574-5p reduced pgRNA and polymerase mRNA levels by binding to the 2750-2757 position of HBV genomic sequence.
Exosomes can transfer IFN-α-related miRNAs from macrophages to HBV-infected hepatocytes, and exhibit antiviral activities against HBV replication and expression.

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