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J Hepatol. 2002 Mar;36(3):408-16.

Features of the CD4+ T-cell response in liver and peripheral blood of hepatitis C virus-infected patients with persistently normal and abnormal alanine aminotransferase levels.

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  • 1Institute of Hepatology, Hospital Pardo de Aravaca, Madrid, Spain.



The liver is the primary site of hepatitis C virus (HCV) replication; intrahepatic T-cell responses may influence liver disease severity.


HCV-specific CD4(+) T-cell reactivity was investigated ex vivo in paired liver tissue and peripheral blood from 42 chronic HCV patients.


The frequencies with which HCV-specific HLA class-II-restricted CD4(+) T-cell proliferation were observed were 29% in liver and 36% in peripheral blood. Among responses, non-structural-3 protein (NS3)-specific T-cell proliferation was dominant but non-exclusive and did rarely occur concurrently in liver infiltrate and peripheral blood suggesting liver compartmentalization of a CD4(+) T-cells population. Compared with 24 patients with abnormal ALT levels, 18 HCV carriers with persistently normal ALT levels had similar serum and liver viral loads but showed: (i) a low-activity grade and stage chronic hepatitis (P<0.001); (ii) less intrahepatic CD4(+) T-lymphocytes (P<0.01); (iii) less frequent intrahepatic (17 vs. 33%) and peripheral (17 vs. 38%) NS3-specific CD4(+) T-cell proliferation; (iv) less often in vitro T-helper (Th)1 (interferon-gamma) cytokine production (2 vs. 18%; P<0.001).


Our data show a low frequency of intrahepatic HCV-specific HLA class-II-restricted CD4(+) Th1 responses in patients with chronic HCV. However, these Th1 responses are detected more often in those patients with overt clinical and histological disease.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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