HCV protein-induced cytokine predicts treatment outcomes in chronic hepatitis C virus infection

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Abstract

Background & Aims:

Immune-mediated processes are thought to influence the efficacy of treatment in chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. This study evaluated the association of baseline immune responses with the achievement of a sustained viral response (SVR) upon pegylated interferon and ribavirin treatment.

Methods:

Baseline serum and peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) cytokine activity was assessed. Metabolic and liver injury parameters were evaluated as underlying factors.

Results:

Baseline demographics and disease parameters did not differ between the SVR− (n = 14) and SVR+ (n = 25) cohorts except for body mass index (BMI) values and liver injury scores. Baseline circulating TNF-α levels were three-fold higher with subsequent treatment failure vs. success (P = 0.124). Baseline peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC, n = 25) were cultured with HCV core and non-structural (NS)3 proteins. Core (P = 0.0003) and NS3 (P = 0.018) induced greater TNF-α production within the SVR−, compared with the SVR+, cohorts. Similar findings were noted for interleukin (IL)-1β and IL-10 synthesis. Furthermore, HCV core-induced TNF-α synthesis correlated with patient BMI values (r = 0.489, P = 0.015). Core (r = 0.432, P = 0.065) and NS3 (r = 0.530, P = 0.020)-induced TNF-α displayed a positive relationship with serum adiponectin concentrations. In addition, lipopolysaccharide stimulated cytokine synthesis associated with BMI and adiponectin levels. Although unable to predict treatment outcomes, NS3-induced IL-6 synthesis and serum leptin concentrations corresponded to liver injury scores.

Conclusion:

An enhanced PBMC susceptibility to core and NS3-induced TNF-α synthesis at baseline was associated with treatment failure. This phenomenon appeared to involve the interaction of virally generated TNF-α activity and metabolic disease. In contrast, IL-6 activity and leptin levels may indicate liver damage.

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