Chronically HBV infected subjects are more than 260 million worldwide; cirrhosis and liver cancer represent possible outcomes which affect around 700,000 patients per year. Both innate and adaptive immune responses are necessary for viral control and both have been shown to be defective in chronic patients. Metabolic remodeling is an essential process in T cell biology, particularly for T cell activation, differentiation and survival. Cellular metabolism relies on the conversion of nutrients into energy to support intracellular processes, and to generate fundamental intermediate components for cell proliferation and growth. Adaptive immune responses are the central mechanisms for the resolution of primary human infections leading to the activation of pathogen-specific B and T cell functions. In chronic HBV infection the anti-viral immune response fails to contain the virus and leads to persistent hepatic tissue damage which may finally result in liver cirrhosis and cancer. This T cell failure is associated with metabolic alterations suggesting that control of nutrient uptake and intracellular utilization as well as correct regulation of intracellular metabolic pathways are strategic for T cell differentiation during persistent chronic infections. This review will discuss some of the main features of the T cell metabolic processes which are relevant to the generation of an efficient antiviral response, with specific focus on their clinical relevance in chronic HBV infection in the perspective of possible strategies to correct deregulated metabolic pathways underlying T cell dysfunction of chronic HBV patients.
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