Immunopeptidome of hepatocytes isolated from patients with HBV infection and hepatocellular carcinoma

de Beijer, Monique TA, et al. “Immunopeptidome of hepatocytes isolated from patients with HBV infection and hepatocellular carcinoma.” JHEP Reports 4.11 (2022): 100576.


Background & Aims

Antigen-specific immunotherapy is a promising strategy to treat HBV infection and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). To facilitate killing of malignant and/or infected hepatocytes, it is vital to know which T cell targets are presented by human leucocyte antigen (HLA)-I complexes on patient-derived hepatocytes. Here, we aimed to reveal the hepatocyte-specific HLA-I peptidome with emphasis on peptides derived from HBV proteins and tumour-associated antigens (TAA) to guide development of antigen-specific immunotherapy.


Primary human hepatocytes were isolated with high purity from (HBV-infected) non-tumour and HCC tissues using a newly designed perfusion-free procedure. Hepatocyte-derived HLA-bound peptides were identified by unbiased mass spectrometry (MS), after which source proteins were subjected to Gene Ontology and pathway analysis. HBV antigen and TAA-derived HLA peptides were searched for using targeted MS, and a selection of peptides was tested for immunogenicity.


Using unbiased data-dependent acquisition (DDA), we acquired a high-quality HLA-I peptidome of 2 × 105 peptides that contained 8 HBV-derived peptides and 14 peptides from 8 known HCC-associated TAA that were exclusive to tumours. Of these, 3 HBV- and 12 TAA-derived HLA peptides were detected by targeted MS in the sample they were originally identified in by DDA. Moreover, 2 HBV- and 2 TAA-derived HLA peptides were detected in samples in which no identification was made using unbiased MS. Finally, immunogenicity was demonstrated for 5 HBV-derived and 3 TAA-derived peptides.


We present a first HLA-I immunopeptidome of isolated primary human hepatocytes, devoid of immune cells. Identified HBV-derived and TAA-derived peptides directly aid development of antigen-specific immunotherapy for chronic HBV infection and HCC. The described methodology can also be applied to personalise immunotherapeutic treatment of liver diseases in general.