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J Viral Hepat. 2001 Mar;8(2):103-10.

Expression of interferon-alpha subtypes in peripheral mononuclear cells from patients with chronic hepatitis C: a role for interferon-alpha5.

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Department of Medicine and Liver Unit, ClĂ­nica Universitaria, University of Navarra, 31008 Pamplona, Spain.


Interferon (IFN)-alpha is a family of antiviral proteins encoded by different genes. The biological significance of the existence of various IFN-alpha subtypes is not clear. We have investigated the interferon system in chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection, a disease that responds to interferon-alpha2 therapy in only a limited proportion of cases. We analysed the expression of interferon regulatory factor (IRF)-1, IRF-2, and IFN-alpha subtypes in nonstimulated and Sendai virus-stimulated peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) from HCV infected patients and healthy controls. We observed that the IRF-1 mRNA and IRF-1/IRF-2 ratios were increased in PBMC from hepatitis C patients with respect to normal subjects. Sendai virus stimulation of PBMC led to a significant increase in the levels of IRF-1, IRF-2 and IFN-alpha mRNAs and in the production of IFN-alpha protein with respect to basal values in healthy controls as well as in patients with HCV infection. In addition, we found that while natural HCV infection induced increased IFN-alpha5 expression in PBMC, in vitro infection of these cells with Sendai virus caused a raise in the expression of IFN-alpha8 in both patients and normal controls. In summary, our results indicate that virus-induced activation of the IFN system in human PBMC is associated with selective expression of individual IFN-alpha subtypes, IFN-alpha5 being the specific subtype induced in PBMC from patients with chronic HCV infection.

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