Hepatitis-D virus infection is not impaired by innate immunity but increases cytotoxic T-cell activity

Sebastian Maximilian Altstetter, Oliver Quitt, Francesca Pinci, Veit Hornung, Aaron Michael Lucko, Karin Wisskirchen, Stephanie Jung, Ulrike Protzer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Approximately 70 million humans worldwide are affected by chronic hepatitis D, which rapidly leads to liver cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma due to chronic inflammation. The triggers and consequences of this chronic inflammation, induced by co-infection with the hepatitis D virus (HDV) and the hepatitis B virus (HBV), are poorly understood. Using CRISPR technology, we characterized the recognition of HDV mono-and co-infection by intracellular innate immunity and determined its influence on the viral life cycle and effector T-cell responses using different HBV and HDV permissive hepatoma cell lines. We showed that HDV infection is detected by MDA5 and-after a lag phase-induces a profound type I interferon response in the infected cells. The type I interferon response, however, was not able to suppress HDV replication or spread, thus providing a persistent trigger. Using engineered T-cells directed against the envelope proteins commonly used by HBV and HDV, we found that HDV immune recognition enhanced T-cell cytotoxicity. Interestingly, the T-cell effector function was enhanced independently of antigen presentation. These findings help to explain immune mediated tissue damage in chronic hepatitis D patients and indicate that combining innate triggers with T-cell activating therapies might allow for a curative approach.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3253
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Antiviral response
  • Hepatitis B virus
  • Hepatitis delta virus
  • Innate immunity
  • MDA5
  • T-cell dependent cytotoxicity
  • T-cell engineering


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