Multi-Ancestry Genome-Wide Association Study of Spontaneous Clearance of Hepatitis C Virus

Gastroenterology. 2019 Apr;156(5):1496-1507.e7. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2018.12.014. Epub 2018 Dec 26.


Background & aims: Spontaneous clearance of hepatitis C virus (HCV) occurs in approximately 30% of infected persons and less often in populations of African ancestry. Variants in major histocompatibility complex (MHC) and in interferon lambda genes are associated with spontaneous HCV clearance, but there have been few studies of these variants in persons of African ancestry. We performed a dense multi-ancestry genome-wide association study of spontaneous clearance of HCV, focusing on individuals of African ancestry.

Methods: We performed genotype analyses of 4423 people from 3 ancestry groups: 2201 persons of African ancestry (445 with HCV clearance and 1756 with HCV persistence), 1739 persons of European ancestry (701 with HCV clearance and 1036 with HCV persistence), and 486 multi-ancestry Hispanic persons (173 with HCV clearance and 313 with HCV persistence). Samples were genotyped using Illumina (San Diego, CA) arrays and statistically imputed to the 1000 Genomes Project. For each ancestry group, the association of single-nucleotide polymorphisms with HCV clearance was tested by log-additive analysis, and then a meta-analysis was performed.

Results: In the meta-analysis, significant associations with HCV clearance were confirmed at the interferon lambda gene locus IFNL4-IFNL3 (19q13.2) (P = 5.99 × 10-50) and the MHC locus 6p21.32 (P = 1.15 × 10-21). We also associated HCV clearance with polymorphisms in the G-protein-coupled receptor 158 gene (GPR158) at 10p12.1 (P = 1.80 × 10-07). These 3 loci had independent, additive effects of HCV clearance, and account for 6.8% and 5.9% of the variance of HCV clearance in persons of European and African ancestry, respectively. Persons of African or European ancestry carrying all 6 variants were 24-fold and 11-fold, respectively, more likely to clear HCV infection compared with individuals carrying none or 1 of the clearance-associated variants.

Conclusions: In a meta-analysis of data from 3 studies, we found variants in MHC genes, IFNL4-IFNL3, and GPR158 to increase odds of HCV clearance in patients of European and African ancestry. These findings could increase our understanding of immune response to and clearance of HCV infection.

Keywords: Cytokine; GWAS; Risk; SNP.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Black People / genetics*
  • Female
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Hepacivirus / physiology*
  • Hepatitis C / diagnosis
  • Hepatitis C / ethnology
  • Hepatitis C / genetics*
  • Hepatitis C / virology
  • Hispanic or Latino / genetics*
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions
  • Humans
  • Interferons
  • Interleukins / genetics
  • Major Histocompatibility Complex / genetics
  • Male
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / genetics
  • Remission, Spontaneous
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Viral Load
  • White People / genetics*


  • IFNL3 protein, human
  • IFNL4 protein, human
  • Interleukins
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled
  • Interferons