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J Infect Dis. 2011 Jun 15;203(12):1753-62. doi: 10.1093/infdis/jir186.

Hepatitis C virus infection and hepatic stellate cell activation downregulate miR-29: miR-29 overexpression reduces hepatitis C viral abundance in culture.

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  • 1University of Iowa School of Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Iowa, 3166 MERF, Iowa City, IA 52242, USA.



Chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV)-induced liver fibrosis involves upregulation of transforming growth factor (TGF)-β and subsequent hepatic stellate cell (HSC) activation. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) regulate HCV infection and HSC activation.


TaqMan miRNA profiling identified 12 miRNA families differentially expressed between chronically HCV-infected human livers and uninfected controls. To identify pathways affected by miRNAs, we developed a new algorithm (pathway analysis of conserved targets), based on the probability of conserved targeting.


This analysis suggested a role for miR-29 during HCV infection. Of interest, miR-29 was downregulated in most HCV-infected patients. miR-29 regulates expression of extracellular matrix proteins. In culture, HCV infection downregulated miR-29, and miR-29 overexpression reduced HCV RNA abundance. miR-29 also appears to play a role in HSCs. Hepatocytes and HSCs contribute similar amounts of miR-29 to whole liver. Both activation of primary HSCs and TGF-β treatment of immortalized HSCs downregulated miR-29. miR-29 overexpression in LX-2 cells decreased collagen expression and modestly decreased proliferation. miR-29 downregulation by HCV may derepress extracellular matrix synthesis during HSC activation.


HCV infection downregulates miR-29 in hepatocytes and may potentiate collagen synthesis by reducing miR-29 levels in activated HSCs. Treatment with miR-29 mimics in vivo might inhibit HCV while reducing fibrosis.

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