Background & aims: Corticosteroids are used as immunosuppressants in patients with autoimmune disorders and transplant recipients. However, these drugs worsen hepatitis C virus (HCV) recurrence after liver transplantation, suggesting that they may directly exacerbate HCV infection.
Methods: The influence of immunosuppressive drugs on HCV replication, assembly, and entry was assessed in Huh-7.5 cells and primary human hepatocytes using cell culture- and patient-derived HCV. Replication was quantified by immunofluorescence, luciferase assays, quantitative reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction, or core enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays. Expression of HCV entry factors was evaluated by cell sorting and immunoblot analyses.
Results: Glucocorticosteroids slightly reduced HCV RNA replication but increased efficiency of HCV entry by up to 10-fold. This was independent of HCV genotype but specific to HCV because vesicular stomatitis virus glycoprotein-dependent infection was not affected by these drugs. The increase in HCV entry was accompanied by up-regulation of messenger RNA and protein levels of occludin and the scavenger receptor class B type I-2 host cell proteins required for HCV infection; increase of entry by glucocorticosteroids was ablated by RU-486, an inhibitor of glucocorticosteroid signaling. Glucocorticosteroids increased propagation of cell culture-derived HCV approximately 5- to 10-fold in partially differentiated human hepatoma cells and increased infection of primary human hepatocytes by cell culture- and patient-derived HCV.
Conclusions: Glucocorticosteroides specifically increase HCV entry by up-regulating the cell entry factors occludin and scavenger receptor class B type I. Our data suggest that the potential effects of high-dose glucocorticosteroids on HCV infection in vivo may be due to increased HCV dissemination.
Copyright 2010 AGA Institute. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.