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Biochem J. 2004 Apr 1;379(Pt 1):199-208.

Interferon-gamma inhibits interferon-alpha signalling in hepatic cells: evidence for the involvement of STAT1 induction and hyperexpression of STAT1 in chronic hepatitis C.

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Section on Liver Biology, Laboratory of Physiologic Studies, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, National Institutes of Health, 12420 Parklawn Drive, MSC 8115, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


IFN-gamma (interferon-gamma) modulates IFN-alpha therapy in chronic hepatitis C infection; however, the underlying mechanism remains unclear. Here we demonstrate that long-term (3-6 days) but not short-term (up to 1 day) IFN-gamma treatment of human hepatoma Hep3B cells attenuates IFN-alpha activation of STAT1 (signal transducers and activators of transcription factor 1), STAT2 and STAT3, but enhances IFN-gamma and interleukin 6 activation of STATs. Prolonged exposure to IFN-gamma also significantly induces STAT1 protein expression without affecting STAT2, STAT3 and ERK (extracellular-signal-regulated kinase) 1/2 protein expression. To determine the role of STAT1 protein overexpression in regulation of IFN-alpha signalling, Hep3B cells were stably transfected with wild-type STAT1. Overexpression of STAT1 via stable transfection enhances IFN-gamma activation of STAT1, but surprisingly attenuates IFN-alpha activation of STAT1, STAT2 and STAT3 without affecting Janus kinase activation. This STAT1-mediated inhibition does not require STAT1 tyrosine phosphorylation because overexpression of dominant-negative STAT1 with a mutation on tyrosine residue 701 also blocks IFN-alpha activation of STAT1, STAT2 and STAT3. Moreover, overexpression of STAT1 blocks IFN-alpha-activated STAT2 translocation from IFN-alpha receptor 2 to IFN-alpha receptor 1, a critical step in IFN-alpha signalling activation. Finally, significantly higher levels of STAT1 protein expression, which is probably induced by IFN-gamma, are detected in the majority of hepatitis C virus-infected livers compared with healthy controls. In conclusion, long-term IFN-gamma treatment inhibits IFN-alpha-activated signals most probably, at least in part, through the induction of STAT1 protein expression, which could partly contribute to IFN-alpha treatment failure in hepatitis C patients.

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