Public Release: 

T-bet tackles hepatitis

Rockefeller University Press

A single protein may tip the balance between ridding the body of a dangerous virus and enduring life-long chronic infection, according to a report appearing in The Journal of Experimental Medicine.

Hepatitis B and C viruses cause chronic infections in roughly three-quarters of infected people, putting these individuals at risk for developing liver diseases including cirrhosis and cancer. A few patients successfully eliminate infection, thanks primarily to virus-fighting immune cells called CD8+ T cells. The protective effects of CD8+ T cells depend on a cellular protein called T-bet, which is needed for the production of antiviral molecules like interferon.

Scientists in Munich, Germany, have now found that high levels of T-bet in CD8+ T cells are prevalent in individuals who successfully fight off hepatitis infections but are virtually undetectable in those who don't. The presence of T-bet went hand in hand with the production of interferon and the ability of CD8+ T cells to multiply in response to the virus. Whether boosting levels of T-bet in newly infected patients will help eliminate the virus remains to be seen.


Kurktschiev, P.D., et al. 2014. J. Exp. Med. doi:10.1084/jem.20131333

About The Journal of Experimental Medicine

The Journal of Experimental Medicine (JEM) is published by The Rockefeller University Press. All editorial decisions on manuscripts submitted are made by active scientists in conjunction with our in-house scientific editors. JEM content is posted to PubMed Central, where it is available to the public for free six months after publication. Authors retain copyright of their published works and third parties may reuse the content for non-commercial purposes under a creative commons license. For more information, please visit

Research reported in the press release was supported by the German Federal Ministry of Research, and the European Research Council.

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