Epitope mapping of cytochrome P4502D6 autoantigen in patients with chronic hepatitis C during alpha-interferon treatment

J Hepatol. 1999 Mar;30(3):366-75. doi: 10.1016/s0168-8278(99)80092-0.


Background/aims: Cytochrome P450 2D6 (CYP2D6) has been documented as the major target antigen of liver kidney microsomal autoantibodies type-1 (anti-LKM-1) in both autoimmune hepatitis type-2 (AIH-2) and hepatitis C (HCV). In HCV/anti-LKM-1-positive patients, the choice between alpha-interferon (alpha-IFN) or immunosuppression may be difficult. This study was conducted to evaluate the course and outcome of alpha-IFN therapy in HCV/anti-LKM-1-positive and -negative patients and the alterations in these autoantibody titers by the indirect immunofluorescence and a novel radioligand assay. Epitope mapping was also performed to screen for a potential shift in anti-LKM-1 binding towards small linear epitopes, which are more often detected in AIH-2 patients.

Methods: Twenty-one patients with HCV infection received alpha-IFN. Seven patients were anti-LKM-1 positive (study group) and 14 patients were anti-LKM-1 negative (disease control group). Anti-CYP2D6 detection was based on immunoprecipitation of [35S]-methionine-labeled CYP2D6 recombinant protein (rCYP2D6) produced by in vitro transcription/translation.

Results: Four out of seven (57%) patients in the study group and 5/14 (36%) in the disease control group initially responded, but subsequently relapsed. During follow-up, alanine aminotransferase significantly increased in the study group compared to the disease control group (p<0.01). A slight increase, followed by a plateau of autoantibody titers was recorded by the radioligand assay and by indirect immunofluorescence during therapy and follow-up in most cases. In one patient, however, gamma-globulins and anti-LKM-1 titers increased, reaching very high levels (1:40 960). alpha-IFN was interrupted and immunosuppression was started. HCV/anti-CYP2D6 positive sera recognized CYP2D6 expressed in E. coli and two truncated proteins (aa 250-494 and 321-494). Two out of seven sera, in addition reacted with a small linear epitope of aa 257-269 (one of which also reacted with a C-terminal domain of aa 350-494).

Conclusions: A rather mild deterioration in liver disease was observed in only 1/7 HCV/anti-LKM-1-positive patients during alpha-IFN treatment. This patient showed high anti-CYP2D6 titers before the initiation of therapy, a sharp increase in anti-LKM-1 titers during treatment, and reactivities to a small linear epitope and an infrequently recognized C-terminal domain of CYP2D6. After switching to immunosuppressive treatment, a complete and sustained response was recorded. Further prospective studies from many centers are needed to define whether these features have general, clinical significance or not.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Antiviral Agents / immunology
  • Antiviral Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Autoantigens / immunology*
  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP2D6 / immunology*
  • Epitope Mapping
  • Female
  • Hepatitis C, Chronic / drug therapy
  • Hepatitis C, Chronic / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppression Therapy
  • Interferon-alpha / immunology
  • Interferon-alpha / therapeutic use*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged


  • Antiviral Agents
  • Autoantigens
  • Interferon-alpha
  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP2D6