Table_1_The Correlation Between Hepatitis B Virus Precore/Core Mutations and the Progression of Severe Liver Disease.DOCX

Viral mutations acquired during the course of chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection are known to be associated with the progression and severity of HBV-related liver disease. This study of HBV-infected Saudi Arabian patients aimed to identify amino acid substitutions within the precore/core (preC/C) region of HBV, and investigate their impact on disease progression toward hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Patients were categorized according to the severity of their disease, and were divided into the following groups: inactive HBV carriers, active HBV carriers, liver cirrhosis patients, and HCC patients. Two precore mutations, W28* and G29D, and six core mutations, F24Y, E64D, E77Q, A80I/T/V, L116I, and E180A were significantly associated with the development of cirrhosis and HCC. Six of the seven significant core mutations that were identified in this study were located within immuno-active epitopes; E77Q, A80I/T/V, and L116I were located within B-cell epitopes, and F24Y, E64D, and V91S/T were located within T-cell epitopes. Multivariate risk analysis confirmed that the core mutations A80V and L116I were both independent predictors of HBV-associated liver disease progression. In conclusion, our data show that mutations within the preC/C region, particularly within the immuno-active epitopes, may contribute to the severity of liver disease in patients with chronic hepatitis. Furthermore, we have identified several distinct preC/C mutations within the study population that affect the clinical manifestation and progression of HBV-related disease. The specific identity of HBV mutations that are associated with severe disease varies between different ethnic populations, and so the specific preC/C mutations identified here will be useful for predicting clinical outcomes and identifying the HBV-infected patients within the Saudi population that are at high risk of developing HCC.