Efficacy of an Inhibitor of Hepatitis B Virus Expression in Combination With Entecavir and Interferon-? in Woodchucks Chronically Infected With Woodchuck Hepatitis Virus.
ABSTRACT: RG7834 is a small-molecule inhibitor of hepatitis B virus (HBV) gene expression that significantly reduces the levels of hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) and HBV DNA in a humanized liver HBV mouse model. In the current study, we evaluated the potency of RG7834 in the woodchuck model of chronic HBV infection, alone and in combination with entecavir (ETV) and/or woodchuck interferon-? (wIFN-?). RG7834 reduced woodchuck hepatitis virus (WHV) surface antigen (WHsAg) by a mean of 2.57 log10 from baseline and WHV DNA by a mean of 1.71 log10. ETV + wIFN-? reduced WHsAg and WHV DNA by means of 2.40 log10 and 6.70 log10, respectively. The combination of RG7834, ETV, and wIFN-? profoundly reduced WHsAg and WHV DNA levels by 5.00 log10 and 7.46 log10, respectively. However, both viral parameters rebounded to baseline after treatment was stopped and no antibody response against WHsAg was observed. Effects on viral RNAs were mainly seen with the triple combination treatment, reducing both pregenomic RNA (pgRNA) and WHsAg RNA, whereas RG7834 mainly reduced WHsAg RNA and ETV mainly affected pgRNA. When WHsAg was reduced by the triple combination, peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) proliferated significantly in response to viral antigens, but the cellular response was diminished after WHsAg returned to baseline levels during the off-treatment period. Consistent with this, Pearson correlation revealed a strong negative correlation between WHsAg levels and PBMC proliferation in response to peptides covering the entire WHsAg and WHV nucleocapsid antigen. Conclusion: A fast and robust reduction of WHsAg by combination therapy reduced WHV-specific immune dysfunction in the periphery. However, the magnitude and/or duration of the induced cellular response were not sufficient to achieve a sustained antiviral response.
Project description:A potent therapeutic T-cell vaccine may be an alternative treatment of chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection. Previously, we developed a DNA prime-adenovirus (AdV) boost vaccination protocol that could elicit strong and specific CD8+ T-cell responses to woodchuck hepatitis virus (WHV) core antigen (WHcAg) in mice. In the present study, we first examined whether this new prime-boost immunization could induce WHcAg-specific T-cell responses and effectively control WHV replication in the WHV-transgenic mouse model. Secondly, we evaluated the therapeutic effect of this new vaccination strategy in chronically WHV-infected woodchucks in combination with a potent antiviral treatment. Immunization of WHV-transgenic mice by DNA prime-AdV boost regimen elicited potent and functional WHcAg-specific CD8+ T-cell response that consequently resulted in the reduction of the WHV load below the detection limit in more than 70% of animals. The combination therapy of entecavir (ETV) treatment and DNA prime-AdV boost immunization in chronic WHV carriers resulted in WHsAg- and WHcAg-specific CD4+ and CD8+ T-cell responses, which were not detectable in ETV-only treated controls. Woodchucks receiving the combination therapy showed a prolonged suppression of WHV replication and lower WHsAg levels compared to controls. Moreover, two of four immunized carriers remained WHV negative after the end of ETV treatment and developed anti-WHs antibodies. These results demonstrate that the combined antiviral and vaccination approach efficiently elicited sustained immunological control of chronic hepadnaviral infection in woodchucks and may be a new promising therapeutic strategy in patients.
Project description:Hepatitis B virus (HBV) persistence is facilitated by exhaustion of CD8 T cells that express the inhibitory receptor programmed cell death-1 (PD-1). Improvement of the HBV-specific T cell function has been obtained in vitro by inhibiting the PD-1/PD-ligand 1 (PD-L1) interaction. In this study, we examined whether in vivo blockade of the PD-1 pathway enhances virus-specific T cell immunity and leads to the resolution of chronic hepadnaviral infection in the woodchuck model. The woodchuck PD-1 was first cloned, characterized, and its expression patterns on T cells from woodchucks with acute or chronic woodchuck hepatitis virus (WHV) infection were investigated. Woodchucks chronically infected with WHV received a combination therapy with nucleoside analogue entecavir (ETV), therapeutic DNA vaccination and woodchuck PD-L1 antibody treatment. The gain of T cell function and the suppression of WHV replication by this therapy were evaluated. We could show that PD-1 expression on CD8 T cells was correlated with WHV viral loads during WHV infection. ETV treatment significantly decreased PD-1 expression on CD8 T cells in chronic carriers. In vivo blockade of PD-1/PD-L1 pathway on CD8 T cells, in combination with ETV treatment and DNA vaccination, potently enhanced the function of virus-specific T cells. Moreover, the combination therapy potently suppressed WHV replication, leading to sustained immunological control of viral infection, anti-WHs antibody development and complete viral clearance in some woodchucks. Our results provide a new approach to improve T cell function in chronic hepatitis B infection, which may be used to design new immunotherapeutic strategies in patients.
Project description:SB 9200, an orally bioavailable dinucleotide, activates the viral sensor proteins, retinoic acid-inducible gene 1 (RIG-I) and nucleotide-binding oligomerization domain-containing protein 2 (NOD2) causing the induction of the interferon (IFN) signaling cascade for antiviral defense. The present study evaluated the overall antiviral response in woodchucks upon induction of immune response, first with SB 9200 followed by Entecavir (ETV) versus reduction of viral burden with ETV followed by SB 9200 immunomodulation. Woodchucks chronically infected with woodchuck hepatitis virus (WHV) were treated orally with SB 9200 (30 mg/kg/day) and ETV (0.5 mg/kg/day). Group 1 received ETV for 4 weeks followed by SB 9200 for 12 weeks. Group 2 received SB 9200 for 12 weeks followed by ETV for 4 weeks. At the end of treatment in Group 2, average reductions of 6.4 log10 in serum WHV DNA and 3.3 log10 in WHV surface antigen were observed whereas in Group 1, average reductions of 4.2 log10 and 1.1 log10 in viremia and antigenemia were noted. Both groups demonstrated marked reductions in hepatic WHV nucleic acid levels which were more pronounced in Group 2. Following treatment cessation and the 8-week follow-up, recrudescence of viral replication was observed in Group 1 while viral relapse in Group 2 was significantly delayed. The antiviral effects observed in both groups were associated with temporally different induction of IFN-?, IFN-?, and IFN-stimulated genes in blood and liver. These results suggest that the induction of host immune responses by pretreatment with SB 9200 followed by ETV resulted in antiviral efficacy that was superior to that obtained using the strategy of viral reduction with ETV followed by immunomodulation.
Project description:Background & Aims: New therapies for chronic hepatitis B (CHB) are urgently needed since current treatments rarely lead to cure. We evaluated whether the oral small molecule toll-like receptor (TLR7) agonist GS-9620 could induce durable anti-viral efficacy in woodchucks chronically infected with woodchuck hepatitis virus (WHV), a hepadnavirus closely related to human hepatitis B virus (HBV). Methods: After evaluating the pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics and tolerability of oral GS-9620 in uninfected woodchucks, adult woodchucks chronically infected with WHV (n=7 per group) were dosed with GS-9620 or placebo for 4 or 8 weeks with different treatment schedules. Results: GS?9620 treatment induced rapid, marked and sustained reduction in serum viral DNA (mean maximal 6.2 log10 reduction), and hepatic WHV DNA replicative intermediates, WHV cccDNA and WHV RNA, as well as loss of detectable serum WHV surface antigen (WHsAg). GS-9620 treatment also induced a sustained antibody response against WHsAg in a subset of animals. Strikingly, treatment reduced the incidence of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) from 71% in the placebo group to 8% in GS-9620-treated woodchucks with sustained viral load reduction. GS-9620 treatment was associated with reversible increases in serum liver enzymes and thrombocytopenia, and induced intrahepatic CD8+ T cell, NK cell, B cell and interferon (IFN) response transcriptional signatures. Conclusions: The data demonstrate that short duration, finite treatment with the oral TLR7 agonist GS-9620 can induce a sustained antiviral response in the woodchuck model of CHB, and support investigation of this compound as a therapeutic approach to attain a functional cure in CHB patients. Liver biopsies were taken at various time points pre-treatment, during treatment and post-treatment from placebo-treated group and GS9620-treated group (5mg/kg QW). Total RNAs were extracted and analyzed by RNA-Seq. The number of animals analyzed at each time-point for each group was as follows: group 1 (placebo) day -14, n=7; day 43, n=7; day 71, n=7; day 120, n=7; day 250, n=7; group 5 (5 mg/kg QW) day -14, n=7; day 23, n=6; day 57, n=5; day 78, n=4; day 250, n=5.
Project description:BACKGROUND & AIMS:New therapies for chronic hepatitis B (CHB) are urgently needed since current treatments rarely lead to cure. We evaluated whether the oral small molecule toll-like receptor (TLR7) agonist GS-9620 could induce durable antiviral efficacy in woodchucks chronically infected with woodchuck hepatitis virus (WHV), a hepadnavirus closely related to human hepatitis B virus (HBV). METHODS:After evaluating the pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics and tolerability of oral GS-9620 in uninfected woodchucks, adult woodchucks chronically infected with WHV (n = 7 per group) were dosed with GS-9620 or placebo for 4 or 8 weeks with different treatment schedules. RESULTS:GS-9620 treatment induced rapid, marked and sustained reduction in serum viral DNA (mean maximal 6.2log10 reduction), and hepatic WHV DNA replicative intermediates, WHV cccDNA and WHV RNA, as well as loss of detectable serum WHV surface antigen (WHsAg). GS-9620 treatment also induced a sustained antibody response against WHsAg in a subset of animals. Strikingly, treatment reduced the incidence of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) from 71% in the placebo group to 8% in GS-9620-treated woodchucks with sustained viral load reduction. GS-9620 treatment was associated with reversible increases in serum liver enzymes and thrombocytopenia, and induced intrahepatic CD8(+) T cell, NK cell, B cell and interferon response transcriptional signatures. CONCLUSIONS:The data demonstrate that short duration, finite treatment with the oral TLR7 agonist GS-9620 can induce a sustained antiviral response in the woodchuck model of CHB, and support investigation of this compound as a therapeutic approach to attain a functional cure in CHB patients.
Project description:Current hepatitis B virus (HBV) management is challenging as treatment with nucleos(t)ide analogues needs to be maintained indefinitely and because interferon (IFN)-? therapy is associated with considerable toxicity. Previously, we showed that linking IFN? to apolipoprotein A-I generates a molecule (IA) with distinct antiviral and immunostimulatory activities which lacks the hematological toxicity of IFN?.Here, we analyse the antiviral potential of an adeno-associated vector encoding IFN? fused to apolipoprotein A-I (AAV-IA) in comparison to a vector encoding only IFN? (AAV-IFN) in two animal models of chronic hepadnavirus infection.In HBV transgenic mice, we found that both vectors induced marked reductions in serum and liver HBV DNA and in hepatic HBV RNA but AAV-IFN caused lethal pancytopenia. Woodchucks with chronic hepatitis virus (WHV) infection that were treated by intrahepatic injection of vectors encoding the woodchuck sequences (AAV-wIFN or AAV-wIA), experienced only a slight reduction of viremia which was associated with hematological toxicity and high mortality when using AAV-wIFN, while AAV-wIA was well tolerated. However, when we tested AAV-wIA or a control vector encoding woodchuck apolipoprotein A-I (AAV-wApo) in combination with entecavir, we found that AAV-wApo-treated animals exhibited an immediate rebound of viral load upon entecavir withdrawal while, in AAV-wIA-treated woodchucks, viremia and antigenemia remained at low levels for several weeks following entecavir interruption.Treatment with AAV-IA is safe and elicits antiviral effects in animal models with difficult to treat chronic hepadnavirus infection. AAV-IA in combination with nucleos(t)ide analogues represents a promising approach for the treatment of HBV infection in highly viremic patients.
Project description:Current therapeutics for chronic infection with hepatitis B virus (HBV) rarely induce functional cure due to the immunotolerant status of patients. Small molecule agonists targeting toll-like receptor 7 (TLR7) have been shown to elicit a functional cure in animal models of HBV but sometimes with poor tolerability due to immune-related toxicities. In an effort to increase the therapeutic window of TLR7 agonists to treat chronic hepatitis B (CHB), we developed an oral TLR7 agonist, APR002, designed to act locally in the gastrointestinal tract and liver, thus minimizing systemic exposure and improving tolerability. Here, we describe the pharmacokinetic/pharmacodynamic (PK/PD) profile of APR002 in mice and uninfected woodchucks as well as the safety and antiviral efficacy in combination with entecavir (ETV) in woodchucks with CHB. Treatment of woodchucks chronically infected with woodchuck hepatitis virus (WHV) with weekly oral doses of APR002 was well-tolerated. While APR002 and ETV single agents did not elicit sustained viral control, combination therapy resulted in durable immune-mediated suppression of the chronic infection. These woodchucks also had detectable antibodies to viral antigens, enhanced interferon-stimulated gene expression, and loss of WHV covalently closed circular DNA. <i>Conclusion:</i> APR002 is a novel TLR7 agonist exhibiting a distinct PK/PD profile that in combination with ETV can safely attain a functional cure in woodchucks with chronic WHV infection. Our results support further investigation of liver-targeted TLR7 agonists in human CHB.
Project description:To define the intrahepatic cellular and molecular characteristics of the antiviral response to wIFN-alpha in woodchuck, the transcriptional profiles of woodchuck liver were studied by using RNASeq Woodchucks liver samples with chronic woodchuck hepatitis virus (WHV) infection were treated with recombinant woodchuck IFN-alpha or with placebo for 26 weeks
Project description:Recombinant interferon-alpha (IFN-?) is an approved therapy for chronic hepatitis B (CHB), but the molecular basis of treatment response remains to be determined. The woodchuck model of chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection displays many characteristics of human disease and has been extensively used to evaluate antiviral therapeutics. In this study, woodchucks with chronic woodchuck hepatitis virus (WHV) infection were treated with recombinant woodchuck IFN-? (wIFN-?) or placebo (n = 12/group) for 15 weeks. Treatment with wIFN-? strongly reduced viral markers in the serum and liver in a subset of animals, with viral rebound typically being observed following cessation of treatment. To define the intrahepatic cellular and molecular characteristics of the antiviral response to wIFN-?, we characterized the transcriptional profiles of liver biopsies taken from animals (n = 8-12/group) at various times during the study. Unexpectedly, this revealed that the antiviral response to treatment did not correlate with intrahepatic induction of the majority of IFN-stimulated genes (ISGs) by wIFN-?. Instead, treatment response was associated with the induction of an NK/T cell signature in the liver, as well as an intrahepatic IFN-? transcriptional response and elevation of liver injury biomarkers. Collectively, these data suggest that NK/T cell cytolytic and non-cytolytic mechanisms mediate the antiviral response to wIFN-? treatment. In summary, by studying recombinant IFN-? in a fully immunocompetent animal model of CHB, we determined that the immunomodulatory effects, but not the direct antiviral activity, of this pleiotropic cytokine are most closely correlated with treatment response. This has important implications for the rational design of new therapeutics for the treatment of CHB.
Project description:The immunity elicited against nucleocapsid of hepatitis B virus (HBV) and closely related woodchuck hepatitis virus (WHV) has been shown to be important in resolution of hepatitis and protection from infection. Further, activity of gamma interferon (IFN-gamma), which may directly inhibit hepadnavirus replication, promotes antiviral defense and favors T helper cell type 1 (Th1) response, which is seemingly a prerequisite of HBV clearance. In this study, to enhance induction of protective immunity against hepadnavirus, healthy woodchucks were immunized with a bicistronic DNA vaccine carrying WHV core (WHc) and woodchuck IFN-gamma (wIFN-gamma) gene sequences. Three groups, each group containing three animals, were injected once or twice with 0.5 mg, 0.9 mg, or 1.5 mg per dose of this vaccine. In addition, four animals received two injections of 0.6 mg or 1 mg WHc DNA alone. All animals were challenged with WHV. The results showed that four of nine animals injected with the bicistronic vaccine and one of four immunized with WHc DNA became protected from serologically evident infection and hepatitis. This protection was not linked to induction of WHc antigen-specific antibodies or T-cell proliferative response and was not associated with enhanced transcription of Th1 cytokines or 2',5'-oligoadenylate synthetase. Strikingly, all animals protected from hepatitis became reactive for WHV DNA and carried low levels of replicating virus in hepatic and lymphoid tissues after challenge with WHV. This study shows that the bicistronic DNA vaccine encoding both hepadnavirus core antigen and IFN-gamma was more effective in preventing hepatitis than that encoding virus core alone, but neither of them could mount sterile immunity against the virus or prevent establishment of occult infection.