Hepatitis C virus infection: molecular pathways to metabolic syndrome

Hepatology. 2008 Jun;47(6):2127-33. doi: 10.1002/hep.22269.


Chronic infection with hepatitis C virus (HCV) can induce insulin resistance (IR) in a genotype-dependent fashion, thus contributing to steatosis, progression of fibrosis and resistance to interferon therapy. The molecular mechanisms in genotype 1 patients that lead to metabolic syndrome are still ambiguous. Based on our current understanding, HCV proteins associate with mitochondria and endoplasmic reticulum and promote oxidative stress. The latter mediates signals involving the p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase and activates nuclear factor kappa B. This transcription factor plays a key role in the expression of cytokines, tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha), interleukin 6, interleukin 8, tumor growth factor beta, and Fas ligand. TNF-alpha inhibits the function of insulin receptor substrates and decreases the expression of the glucose transporter and lipoprotein lipase in peripheral tissues, which is responsible for the promotion of insulin resistance. Furthermore, reduced adiponectin levels, loss of adiponectin receptors, and decreased anti-inflammatory peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor alpha in the liver of HCV patients may contribute to reduced fatty acid oxidation, inflammation, and eventually lipotoxicity. This chain of events may be initiated by HCV-associated IR and provides a direction for future research in the areas of therapeutic intervention.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Genotype
  • Hepacivirus / genetics
  • Hepatitis C / complications*
  • Hepatitis C / metabolism*
  • Hepatitis C / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Insulin Resistance / physiology
  • Metabolic Syndrome / metabolism*
  • Metabolic Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Metabolic Syndrome / virology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism


  • Cytokines
  • Transcription Factors