Serum Ceramide Species Are Associated with Liver Cirrhosis and Viral Genotype in Patients with Hepatitis C Infection

Int J Mol Sci. 2022 Aug 29;23(17):9806. doi: 10.3390/ijms23179806.


Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection affects ceramide metabolism, and, here, we have evaluated associations of eight serum ceramide species with viral load, viral genotype, and disease markers in 178 patients with chronic HCV. In this cohort, ceramide d18:1;O2/16:0 was higher in the serum of the 20 diabetic patients compared to the patients without this complication. Moreover, ceramide d18:1;O2/24:0 was negatively correlated with age. Of note, all but ceramide d18:1;O2/16:0 and 26:0 were diminished in the serum of patients with liver cirrhosis and, with the exception of ceramide d18:1;O2/16:0, were negatively correlated with the model for end-stage liver disease (MELD) score. Most of the serum ceramides are carried in low-density lipoprotein (LDL), which rises following effective direct-acting antiviral (DAA) therapy. Ceramide d18:1;O2/24:0 recovered in parallel with LDL, whereas ceramide d18:1;O2/18:0 declined. Genotype-3-infected patients had the lowest ceramide levels, which were comparable to other genotypes after DAA treatment. Notably, ceramide d18:1;O2/23:0 and 24:0 were negatively correlated with the MELD score in patients with liver cirrhosis at the end of DAA therapy. Long-chain (LC) ceramides show adverse effects, whereas very-long-chain (VL) species have protective functions in the liver. The ratio of VL/LC ceramides was higher in non-cirrhosis patients than cirrhosis patients and further increased at the end of therapy in this subgroup. In summary, our study shows that serum ceramide levels are related to liver cirrhosis and viral genotype. Whether the more favorable serum ceramide profile in non-cirrhosis patients, before and after DAA therapy, is of pathophysiological importance needs further investigation.

Keywords: HCV genotype; diabetes mellitus; direct-acting antivirals; liver cirrhosis; long-chain ceramides; very-long-chain ceramides.

MeSH terms

  • Antiviral Agents / therapeutic use
  • Ceramides
  • End Stage Liver Disease* / complications
  • Genotype
  • Hepacivirus / genetics
  • Hepatitis C, Chronic* / complications
  • Hepatitis C, Chronic* / drug therapy
  • Hepatitis C, Chronic* / genetics
  • Humans
  • Liver Cirrhosis / etiology
  • Severity of Illness Index


  • Antiviral Agents
  • Ceramides

Grants and funding

This research received no external funding.