AIM: To explore the role of killer immunoglobulin receptor (KIR) genes in responsiveness or non-responsiveness to vaccination against hepatitis B virus.
METHODS: We recruited 101 voluntary participants between March 2010 and December 2011. Sera samples from vaccinated and non-vaccinated participants were tested for the presence of anti-HBs antibodies as a measure of protection against hepatitis B, hepatitis B surface antigen and hepatitis B core antibody as indicators of infection by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. KIR gene frequencies were determined by polymerase chain reaction.
RESULTS: Sera samples from 99 participants were tested for the levels of anti-HBs as an indicator of protection (≥ 10 mIU/mL) following vaccination as defined by the World Health Organization international reference standard. Among the vaccinated participants, 47% (35/74) had anti-HBs titers above 100 mIU/mL, 22% (16/74) had anti-HBs ranging between 10-100 mIU/mL, and 20% (15/74) had values of less than 10 mIU/mL. We report the lack of significant association between the number of vaccine dosages and the titer of antibodies among our vaccinated participants. The inhibitory KIR2DL1, KIR2DL4, KIR3DL1, KIR3DL2, and KIR3DL were detected in more than 95%, whereas KIR2DL2, KIR2DL3, KIR2DL5 (KR2DL5A and KIR2DL5B) were expressed in 56%, 84% and 42% (25% and 29%) of participants, respectively. The observed frequency of the activating KIR genes ranged between 35% and 55% except for KIR2DS4, detected in 95% of the study participants (40.6% 2DS4*001/002; 82.2% 2DS4*003/007). KIR2DP1 pseudogene was detected in 99% of our participants, whereas KIR3DP*001/02/04 and KIR3DP1*003 had frequencies of 17% and 100%, respectively. No association between the frequency of KIR genes and anti-HBs antibodies was detected. When we compared the frequency of KIR genes between vaccinated individuals with protective antibodies titers and those who lost their protective antibody levels, we did not detect a significant difference. KIR2DL5B was significantly different among different groups of vaccinated participants (group I > 100 mIU/mL, group II 10-100 mIU/mL, group III < 10 mIU/mL and group IV with undetectable levels of protective antibodies).
CONCLUSION: To our knowledge, this is the first study screening for the possible role of KIR genes among individuals vaccinated against hepatitis B virus (HBV). Our results can be used to design larger studies to better understand the role of KIR genes in protection against or susceptibility to HBV post vaccination.