Over 325 million people worldwide are living with hepatitis B and C viral infections and are at greater risk of developing hepatocellular carcinoma. The interactions between killer cell immunoglobulin-like receptors (KIRs) and their cognate ligands, human leukocyte antigens, modulate both infection processes and disease progression. We report here (1) genotype and haplotype variations in KIR genes in Cameroon and (2) their impact on susceptibility to hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. In 98 unrelated individuals (33 HCV+, 31 HBV+, and 34 uninfected healthy controls), we determined the presence of 15 KIR genes by polymerase chain reaction-sequence-specific primer techniques. One pseudogene and all 14 KIR genes were present. We identified 36 KIR genotypes, 5 of which have not been previously reported in public databases. Two inhibitory (KIR2DL1 and KIR2DL3) and three activating (KIR2DS4, KIR2DS2, and KIR2DS3) genes were present in all HCV-infected individuals. Similarly, KIR3DL1, KIR2DL1, and KIR2DS4 were present at 100% in the HBV+ group. Compared with uninfected healthy controls, the frequencies of KIR2DL2 and KIR3DS1 were significantly lower in the HBV+ group (p = 0.003 and p < 0.001, respectively). Conversely, KIR3DS1 was significantly overrepresented in the HCV+ group compared with controls (97.0% vs. 64.7%, respectively, p < 0.001). These results may imply that KIR3DS1 carriers were less likely to be HBV infected, but may be predisposed to HCV infection compared with uninfected controls, indicating their important role in transmission of these viruses. However, phenotypic, functional, and genomic studies to elucidate the role of these KIR genotypes and haplotypes in infection with HBV and HCV are important.
Keywords: Cameroon; KIR genes; association study; hepatitis B; hepatitis C; liver cancer.