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In Frontiers in molecular biosciences

Hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection remains the leading cause of liver fibrosis (LF) worldwide, especially in China. Identification of decisive diagnostic biomarkers for HBV-associated liver fibrosis (HBV-LF) is required to prevent chronic hepatitis B (CHB) from progressing to liver cancer and to more effectively select the best treatment strategy. We obtained 43 samples from CHB patients without LF and 81 samples from CHB patients with LF (GSE84044 dataset). Among these, 173 differentially expressed genes (DEGs) were identified. Functional analysis revealed that these DEGs predominantly participated in immune-, extracellular matrix-, and metabolism-related processes. Subsequently, we integrated four algorithms (LASSO regression, SVM-RFE, RF, and WGCNA) to determine diagnostic biomarkers for HBV-LF. These analyses and receive operating characteristic curves identified the genes for phosphatidic acid phosphatase type 2C (PPAP2C) and versican (VCAN) as potentially valuable diagnostic biomarkers for HBV-LF. Single-sample gene set enrichment analysis (ssGSEA) further confirmed the immune landscape of HBV-LF. The two diagnostic biomarkers also significantly correlated with infiltrating immune cells. The potential regulatory mechanisms of VCAN underlying the occurrence and development of HBV-LF were also analyzed. These collective findings implicate VCAN as a novel diagnostic biomarker for HBV-LF, and infiltration of immune cells may critically contribute to the occurrence and development of HBV-LF.

Yuan Mengqin, Hu Xue, Yao Lichao, Liu Pingji, Jiang Yingan, Li Lanjuan


bioinformatic analysis, diagnostic biomarker, hepatitis B virus-related liver fibrosis, immune cell infiltration, machine-learning strategies