Functional reconstitution of HBV-specific CD8 T cells by in vitro polyphenol treatment in chronic hepatitis B

Greta Acerbi, Ilaria Montali, Gennaro Domenico Ferrigno, Valeria Barili, Simona Schivazappa, Arianna Alfieri, Diletta Laccabue, Alessandro Loglio, Marta Borghi, Marco Massari, Marzia Rossi, Andrea Vecchi, Amalia Penna, Carolina Boni, Gabriele Missale, Pietro Lampertico, Daniele Del Rio, Carlo Ferrari, Paola Fisicaro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background & Aims: In chronic HBV infection, mitochondrial functions and proteostasis are dysregulated in exhausted HBV-specific CD8 T cells. To better characterise the potential involvement of deregulated protein degradation mechanisms in T cell exhaustion, we analysed lysosome-mediated autophagy in HBV-specific CD8 T cells. Bioactive compounds able to simultaneously target both mitochondrial functions and proteostasis were tested to identify optimal combination strategies to reconstitute efficient antiviral CD8 T cell responses in patients with chronic HBV infection. Methods: Lysosome-mediated degradation pathways were analysed by flow cytometry in virus-specific CD8 T cells from patients with chronic HBV infection. Mitochondrial function, intracellular proteostasis, and cytokine production were evaluated in HBV-peptide-stimulated T cell cultures, in the presence or absence of the polyphenols resveratrol (RSV) and oleuropein (OLE) and their metabolites, either alone or in combination with other bioactive compounds. Results: HBV-specific CD8 T cells from patients with CHB showed impaired autophagic flux. RSV and OLE elicited a significant improvement in mitochondrial, proteostasis and antiviral functions in CD8 T cells. Cytokine production was also enhanced by synthetic metabolites, which correspond to those generated by RSV and OLE metabolism in vivo, suggesting that these polyphenols may also display an effect after transformation in vivo. Moreover, polyphenolic compounds improved the T cell revitalising effect of mitochondria-targeted antioxidants and of programmed cell death protein 1/programmed cell death ligand 1 blockade. Conclusions: Simultaneously targeting multiple altered intracellular pathways with the combination of mitochondria-targeted antioxidants and natural polyphenols may represent a promising immune reconstitution strategy for the treatment of chronic HBV infection. Lay summary: In chronic hepatitis B, antiviral T lymphocytes are deeply impaired, with many altered intracellular functions. In vitro exposure to polyphenols, such as resveratrol and oleuropein, can correct some of the deregulated intracellular pathways and improve antiviral T cell function. This effect can be further strengthened by the association of polyphenols with antioxidant compounds in a significant proportion of patients. Thus, the combination of antioxidants and natural polyphenols represents a promising strategy for chronic hepatitis B therapy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)783-793
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Hepatology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021


  • Chronic HBV infection
  • Oleuropein
  • Proteostasis
  • Resveratrol
  • T cell functional reconstitution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hepatology

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