Hepatitis B vaccine induces apoptotic death in Hepa1–6 cells


Vaccines can have adverse side-effects, and these are predominantly associated with the inclusion of chemical additives such as aluminum hydroxide adjuvant. The objective of this study was to establish an in vitro model system amenable to mechanistic investigations of cytotoxicity induced by hepatitis B vaccine, and to investigate the mechanisms of vaccine-induced cell death. The mouse liver hepatoma cell line Hepa1–6 was treated with two doses of adjuvanted (aluminium hydroxide) hepatitis B vaccine (0.5 and 1 μg protein per ml) and cell integrity was measured after 24, 48 and 72 h. Hepatitis B vaccine exposure increased cell apoptosis as detected by flow cytometry and TUNEL assay. Vaccine exposure was accompanied by significant increases in the levels of activated caspase 3, a key effector caspase in the apoptosis cascade. Early transcriptional events were detected by qRT-PCR. We report that hepatitis B vaccine exposure resulted in significant upregulation of the key genes encoding caspase 7, caspase 9, Inhibitor caspase-activated DNase (ICAD), Rho-associated coiled-coil containing protein kinase 1 (ROCK-1), and Apoptotic protease activating factor 1 (Apaf-1). Upregulation of cleaved caspase 3,7 were detected by western blot in addition to Apaf-1 and caspase 9 expressions argues that cell death takes place via the intrinsic apoptotic pathway in which release of cytochrome c from the mitochondria triggers the assembly of a caspase activation complex. We conclude that exposure of Hepa1–6 cells to a low dose of adjuvanted hepatitis B vaccine leads to loss of mitochondrial integrity, apoptosis induction, and cell death, apoptosis effect was observed also in C2C12 mouse myoblast cell line after treated with low dose of vaccine (0.3, 0.1, 0.05 μg/ml). In addition In vivo apoptotic effect of hepatitis B vaccine was observed in mouse liver.

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This research was supported by National Natural Science Foundation of China and the creative team project of Education Ministry (IRT-0831) and by the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities from Education Ministry of China (2009PY001). We thank Yang Feng, Niu Lili, Wei Wei and GU Ting, in our lab for suggestions on data analysis.

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Correspondence to Changchun Li.

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Hamza, H., Cao, J., Li, X. et al. Hepatitis B vaccine induces apoptotic death in Hepa1–6 cells. Apoptosis 17, 516–527 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10495-011-0690-1

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  • Hepatitis B vaccine
  • Hepa1–6 cells
  • Apoptosis
  • Caspase-dependent pathway
  • Flow cytometry