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Mol Med. 2011;17(7-8):824-33. doi: 10.2119/molmed.2011.00072. Epub 2011 Apr 20.

Molecular pathways differentiate hepatitis C virus (HCV) recurrence from acute cellular rejection in HCV liver recipients.

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  • 1Department of Surgery, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia, USA.


Acute cellular rejection (ACR) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) recurrence (HCVrec) are common complications after liver transplantation (LT) in HCV patients, who share common clinical and histological features, making a differential diagnosis difficult. Fifty-three liver allograft samples from unique HCV LT recipients were studied using microarrays, including a training set (n = 32) and a validation set (n = 19). Two no-HCV-ACR samples from LT recipients were also included. Probe set intensity values were obtained using the robust multiarray average method (RMA) method. Analysis of variance identified statistically differentially expressed genes (P ≤ 0.005). The limma package was used to fit the mixed-effects models using a restricted maximum likelihood procedure. The last absolute shrinkage and selection operator (LASSO) model was fit with HCVrec versus ACR as the dependent variable predicted. N-fold cross-validation was performed to provide an unbiased estimate of generalization error. A total of 179 probe sets were differentially expressed among groups, with 71 exclusive genes between HCVrec and HCV-ACR. No differences were found within ACR group (HCV-ACR vs. no-HCV-ACR). Supervised clustering analysis displayed two clearly independent groups, and no-HCV-ACR clustered within HCV-ACR. HCVrec-related genes were associated with a cytotoxic T-cell profile, and HCV-ACR-related genes were associated with the inflammatory response. The best-fitting LASSO model classifier accuracy, including 15 genes, has an accuracy of 100% in the training set. N-fold cross-validation accuracy was 78.1%, and sensitivity, specificity and positive and negative predictive values were 50.0%, 90.9%, 71.4% and 80.0%, respectively. Arginase type II (ARG2), ethylmalonic encephalopathy 1 (ETHE1), transmembrane protein 176A (TMEM176A) and TMEM176B genes were significantly confirmed in the validation set. A molecular signature capable of distinguishing HCVrec and ACR in HCV LT recipients was identified and validated.

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