Gastroenterologia Japonica

, Volume 27, Issue 6, pp 734–744 | Cite as

Electron microscopic study of hepatitis B virus-associated antigens on the infected liver cell membrane in relation to analysis of immune target antigens in chronic hepatitis B

  • Takafumi Saito
  • Tomoteru Kamimura
  • Masamichi Ishibashi
  • Haruhide Shinzawa
  • Tsuneo Takahashi
Liver, Pancreas and Biliary Tract


To clarify the characteristics of cell surface Pre-S2 Ag, HBcAg and HBeAg immunohistochemically and to explore their relationship with a cellular immune target antigen, 31 liver biopsy specimens from chronic HBV carriers were examined by immunoperoxidase staining. By immune light microscopy, Pre-S2 Ag was detected on the liver cell membrane in 18 (58%) of the 31 cases, HBcAg in 4 cases (13%) and HBeAg in 4 cases (13%). Pre-S2 Ag frequently showed a honeycomb-like membrane expression pattern which was present regardless of liver inflammation, whereas HBcAg and HBeAg exhibited a scattered membrane expression pattern detected in areas of marked inflammation. Of the 18 cases showing a honeycomb-like Pre-S2 Ag expression, 3 concomitantly showed a scattered membrane expression pattern. Immunoelectron microscopy revealed these two distinct membrane expression patterns. In areas showing a honeycomb-like membrane expression pattern, Pre-S2 Ag was demonstrated in the intercellular space and on the basolateral membranes of hepatocytes, but was not detected on the cell membranes in areas of the intercellular space lacking an immunoreaction. Cytoplasmic expression of Pre-S2 Ag was less extensive in these hepatocytes. These findings suggest that the honeycomb-like membrane expression of Pre-S2 Ag results from attachment of extracellular antigen to the liver cell membrane. In contrast, in areas showing a scattered membrane expression pattern, Pre-S2 Ag, HBcAg and HBeAg were each detected as single-layered linear deposits along the cell membrane, but were absent in the intercellular space. Each antigen was also expressed abundantly in the cytoplasm, and the immunoproducts appeared to fuse with the cell membrane. These findings suggest that the scattered membrane expression of these antigens results from intrahepatic transfer of antigen synthesized in the liver cell to the cell membrane, possibly serving as a target for the host immune-mediated response in connection with inflammation.

Key words

hepatitis B hepatitis B virus immunohistochemistry target antigen 


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Copyright information

© The Japanese Society of Gastroenterology 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Takafumi Saito
    • 1
  • Tomoteru Kamimura
    • 2
  • Masamichi Ishibashi
    • 1
  • Haruhide Shinzawa
    • 1
  • Tsuneo Takahashi
    • 1
  1. 1.Second Department of Internal MedicineYamagata University School of MedicineYamagataJapan
  2. 2.Third Department of Internal MedicineNiigata University School of MedicineNiigataJapan

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