To explore the relationship between innate immunity and hepatitis C Virus (HCV) in determining the risk of cirrhosis (CIR), hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), mixed cryoglobulinemia syndrome (MCS) and non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), we investigated the impact of the toll-like receptor-2 (TLR2) and interleukin-28B (IL28B) genetic variants. TLR2 -174 del variant was associated with TLR2 expression and with specific downstream molecules that drive the expression of different interleukins; rs12979860 Il28B was important in response to interferon-treatment and in spontaneous clearance of HCV. The risk for liver and lymphoproliferative diseases in HCV progression was clarified by stratifying 862 HCV-positive patients into groups based on liver (CIR, HCC) and lymphoproliferative HCV-related diseases (MCS, NHL) and compared with chronic HCV (CHC) infection. Analysis of TLR2-IL28B haplotypes showed an association of wild type haplotype with the lymphoproliferative diseases (OR 1.77, p = 0.029) and a slight increase in HCV viral load (HR 1.38, p = 0.054). Wild type haplotype (TLR2 ins/ins- IL28B C/C) was also found associated with older age in patients with an hepatic diseases (in CIR and in HCC p = 0.038 and p = 0.020, respectively) supporting an effect of innate immunity in the liver disease progression. TLR2 and IL28B polymorphisms in combination showed a role in the control of HCV viral load and different HCV disease progression.
Keywords: HCC; HCV; IL28B; Immune response; Immunity; Immunology and Microbiology Section; NHL; TLR2.