PloS one 2016 06 0911(6) e0156200 doi 10.1371/journal.pone.0156200
The ultimate goal of pegylated interferon-alfa-2a (Peg-IFN-α) therapy in chronic hepatitis B (CHB) infection is HBsAg seroconversion. Even though B cells are major mediators of a positive clinical outcome, their modulation during Peg-IFN-α therapy has not yet been described. We investigated here the effects of Peg-IFN-α on eight circulating B-cell subsets thanks to an original multi-gating approach based on CD19, CD27, IgD, CD10, and CD38 markers in patients with CHB treated with nucleos(t)ide analog alone or in combination with Peg-IFN-α. These dynamic changes were analyzed during the 48-weeks of Peg-IFN-α therapy and up to 2 years after the cessation of treatment. The CD19+CD27-IgD+CD10+CD38high transitional B cells and the CD19+CD27+IgD-CD10-CD38high plasmablasts continuously increased, whereas the CD19+CD27-IgD+CD10-CD38low naive, CD19+CD27+IgD+ natural memory, and CD19+CD27+IgD-CD10-CD38low post-germinal center B cells decreased during the course of Peg-IFNα treatment. Such modulations correlated with a sustained increase in sCD30 levels and the decrease in plasma HBsAg. However, no seroconversion occurred and all parameters returned to baseline after the stop of the treatment. Peg-IFN-α therapy mediates a remodeling of B-cell compartmentalization, without clinical relevance. Our study provides new insights into the immunomodulatory effects of Peg-IFN-α on circulating B-cells, and questioned the benefit of the add-on Peg-IFN-α treatment in CHB.