Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1 Alpha-Mediated RelB/APOBEC3B Down-regulation Allows Hepatitis B Virus Persistence

Riedl, T., Faure-Dupuy, S., Rolland, M., Schuehle, S., Hizir, Z., Calderazzo, S., Zhuang, X., Wettengel, J., Lopez, M. A., Barnault, R., Mirakaj, V., Prokosch, S., Heide, D., Leuchtenberger, C., Schneider, M., Hessling, B., Stottmeier, B., Wessbecher, I. M., Schirmacher, P., McKeating, J. A., Protzer, U., Durantel, D., Lucifora, J., Dejardin, E., Heikenwalder, M. (2021). Hepatology.

DOI:10.1002/hep.31902(link is external)


Background and Aims: Therapeutic strategies against HBV focus, among others, on the activation of the immune system to enable the infected host to eliminate HBV. Hypoxia-inducible factor 1 alpha (HIF1α) stabilization has been associated with impaired immune responses. HBV pathogenesis triggers chronic hepatitis-related scaring, leading inter alia to modulation of liver oxygenation and transient immune activation, both factors playing a role in HIF1α stabilization. Approach and Results: We addressed whether HIF1α interferes with immune-mediated induction of the cytidine deaminase, apolipoprotein B mRNA editing enzyme catalytic subunit 3B (APOBEC3B; A3B), and subsequent covalently closed circular DNA (cccDNA) decay. Liver biopsies of chronic HBV (CHB) patients were analyzed by immunohistochemistry and in situ hybridization. The effect of HIF1α induction/stabilization on differentiated HepaRG or mice ± HBV ± LTβR-agonist (BS1) was assessed in vitro and in vivo. Induction of A3B and subsequent effects were analyzed by RT-qPCR, immunoblotting, chromatin immunoprecipitation, immunocytochemistry, and mass spectrometry. Analyzing CHB highlighted that areas with high HIF1α levels and low A3B expression correlated with high HBcAg, potentially representing a reservoir for HBV survival in immune-active patients. In vitro, HIF1α stabilization strongly impaired A3B expression and anti-HBV effect. Interestingly, HIF1α knockdown was sufficient to rescue the inhibition of A3B up-regulation and -mediated antiviral effects, whereas HIF2α knockdown had no effect. HIF1α stabilization decreased the level of v-rel reticuloendotheliosis viral oncogene homolog B protein, but not its mRNA, which was confirmed in vivo. Noteworthy, this function of HIF1α was independent of its partner, aryl hydrocarbon receptor nuclear translocator. Conclusions: In conclusion, inhibiting HIF1α expression or stabilization represents an anti-HBV strategy in the context of immune-mediated A3B induction. High HIF1α, mediated by hypoxia or inflammation, offers a reservoir for HBV survival in vivo and should be considered as a restricting factor in the development of immune therapies.