Background & aims: Dendritic cells (DCs) trigger adaptive immune responses and are an important source of antiviral cytokines. In hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection DC function is markedly impaired. Thus far, studies have focused on types I and II interferon (IFN). We studied IFN-lambda1 (IL-29) and IFN-lambda2/3 (IL-28A/B) serum levels in patients with different outcomes of HCV infection.
Methods: IFN-lambdas were measured by ELISAs detecting IL-29 or IL-28A and IL-28B, respectively. Results were stratified with respect to the recently discovered rs12979860 T/C polymorphism upstream of the IL-28B gene.
Results: In general IL-29 serum levels exceeded IL-28A/B at least twofold, with IL-29 and IL-28A/B levels being significantly higher in carriers of the rs12979860 C allele than in TT homozygous individuals (p<0.02). IL-29 levels were substantially lower in patients with chronic hepatitis C than in healthy controls (p=0.005) and patients with spontaneously resolved hepatitis (p=0.001). Patients with acute hepatitis C showed IL-29 levels intermediate between chronic hepatitis C and normal controls; and IL-29 serum levels were higher in patients who spontaneously resolved hepatitis C than in those who became chronic. In vitro HCV proteins NS3 and E2 directly inhibited IL-29 production in poly I:C-stimulated purified DCs.
Conclusions: Our data suggest that HCV proteins modify IFN-lambda production in DCs. Carriers of the rs12979860 C allele associated with resolution of HCV infection exhibited increased IFN-lambda levels. Moreover, high IFN-lambda levels predisposed to spontaneous resolution of HCV infection. Thus, IFN-lambdas seem to play an important role in the control of hepatitis C.
Copyright © 2010 European Association for the Study of the Liver. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.