Background & aims: Hepatocellular carcinogenesis of hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection may arise from integration of viral DNA into the host genome. We aimed to gauge the effect of viral inhibition on transcriptionally active HBV-host integration events and explore the correlation of viral integrations with host gene dysregulation. Methods: We leveraged data and biospecimens from an interventional trial, in which patients with HBV viremia above 2000 IU/mL and minimally raised serum liver enzyme were randomized to receive tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (TDF) or placebo for 3 years. Total RNA-sequencing was performed on paired liver biopsies taken before and after the 3-year intervention in 119 patients. Virus-host chimeric reads were captured to quantify the number of distinct viral integrations. Dysregulation of a host gene disrupted by viral integration was defined by aberrant expression >2 standard deviations away from samples without viral integration. Results: The TDF (n = 64) and placebo groups (n = 55) were comparable at baseline. Expressed viral integrations were detected in all pre- and posttreatment samples. The number of distinct viral integrations significantly correlated with circulatory biomarkers indicative of viral activities including HBV DNA, RNA, and viral antigens (P < .0003 for all correlations). Moreover, TDF vs placebo achieved a significantly greater reduction in distinct viral integrations, with 3.28-fold and 1.81-fold decreases in the expressed integrations per million reads, respectively (analysis of covariance, P = .037). Besides, viral integrations significantly correlated with host gene dysregulation. Conclusion: Inhibition of viral replication reduces the number of transcriptionally active distinct HBV-host DNA integrations in patients with substantial viremia. Given the mutagenic potentials of viral integrations, such treatment effects should be considered in patient management.
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