Hepatitis C virus targets over-expression of arginase I in hepatocarcinogenesis

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Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is often associated with chronic liver disease, which is a major risk factor for the development of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). To study the HCV host-cell relationship on the molecular level, HepG2 and Huh7 cells were stably transfected with an infectious cDNA clone of HCV or with empty vector. Evidence for HCV replication was obtained in both culture systems. HCV also stimulated growthin vitro. To identify genes whose altered expression by HCV are important to the pathogenesis of infection, RNAs were isolated from HepG2-HCV and HepG2-vector cells and subjected to microarray analysis. The results showed that arginase 1 mRNA and protein were elevated about threefold in HCV positive compared with negative cells (p< 0.01). Arginase 1 expression was elevated in more than 75% of HCV infected liver samples compared with paired HCC from the same patients (>33% positive) and to uninfected liver tissues (0% positive). Arginase 1 specific siRNA inhibited the ability of HCV to stimulate hepatocellular growth in culture by >70%, suggesting that the metabolism of arginine to ornithine may contribute to HCV mediated stimulation of hepatocellular growth. Introduction of arginase specific siRNA also resulted in increased nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) (>1.2-fold), nitric oxide (NO) production (>3-fold) and increased cell death (>2.5-fold) in HCV positive compared with negative cells, suggesting that these molecules potentially contribute to hepatocellular damage. Hence, an important part of the mechanism whereby HCV regulates hepatocellular growth and survival may be through altering arginine metabolism. © 2009 UICC

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