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Hepatitis B virus integrations promote local and distant oncogenic driver alterations in hepatocellular carcinoma

Gut 2021
Péneau C. et al

Objective Infection by HBV is the main risk factor for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) worldwide. HBV directly drives carcinogenesis through integrations in the human genome. This study aimed to precisely characterise HBV integrations, in relation with viral and host genomics and clinical features.

Design A novel pipeline was set up to perform viral capture on tumours and non-tumour liver tissues from a French cohort of 177 patients mainly of European and African origins. Clonality of each integration event was determined with the localisation, orientation and content of the integrated sequence. In three selected tumours, complex integrations were reconstructed using long-read sequencing or Bionano whole genome mapping.

Results Replicating HBV DNA was more frequently detected in non-tumour tissues and associated with a higher number of non-clonal integrations. In HCC, clonal selection of HBV integrations was related to two different mechanisms involved in carcinogenesis. First, integration of viral enhancer nearby a cancer-driver gene may lead to a strong overexpression of oncogenes. Second, we identified frequent chromosome rearrangements at HBV integration sites leading to cancer-driver genes (TERT, TP53, MYC) alterations at distance. Moreover, HBV integrations have direct clinical implications as HCC with a high number of insertions develop in young patients and have a poor prognosis.

  1. Camille Péneau1,2,
  2. Sandrine Imbeaud1,2,
  3. Tiziana La Bella1,2,
  4. Theo Z Hirsch1,2,
  5. Stefano Caruso1,2,
  6. Julien Calderaro3,
  7. Valerie Paradis4,5,
  8. Jean-Frederic Blanc6,7,8,
  9. Eric Letouzé1,2,
  10. Jean-Charles Nault1,2,9,
  11. Giuliana Amaddeo10,
  12. Jessica Zucman-Rossi1,2,11

Conclusion Deep characterisation of HBV integrations in liver tissues highlights new HBV-associated driver mechanisms involved in hepatocarcinogenesis. HBV integrations have multiple direct oncogenic consequences that remain an important challenge for the follow-up of HBV-infected patients.

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