The impact of exposure to interferon-alpha (IFN-α) on gene expression in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) from hepatitis C virus (HCV)-infected and healthy individuals was investigated to recognize whether their PBMC differ in expression of IFN-inducible genes (ISGs) following treatment with IFN-α2b. PBMC obtained from healthy and treatment-naïve HCV-infected patients were cultured with IFN-α2b for 30min, 2h, 4h and 72h, and gene expression was analyzed using mRNA microarray technology. IFN-α caused differential up-regulation of many known ISGs in PBMC from both HCV-infected and healthy subjects. In comparison to untreated controls, the highest augmentation in PBMC ISG expression occurred after 4-hour exposure to IFN-α2b in both groups. The analysis identified 84 transcripts, representing 64 known and 2 unknown genes, that were up-regulated by at least 5-fold in PBMC from infected and uninfected individuals. However, the expression of IFN-α inducible genes was impaired in the PBMC from HCV-infected individuals compared to healthy controls. This was due to an increased baseline expression of the transcripts in PBMC of HCV-infected patients. These findings expand our understanding of IFN-responses in HCV-infected individuals and suggest that functions of PBMC, which include immune effector cells, are altered in patients chronically infected with HCV.
Keywords: Chronic hepatitis C virus infection; Interferon alpha therapy; Interferon alpha-induced gene expression; Peripheral blood mononuclear cells.
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