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J Virol. 2005 Nov;79(21):13412-20.

Liver-directed gamma interferon gene delivery in chronic hepatitis C.

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Liver Diseases Branch, NIDDK, National Institutes of Health, DHHS, 10 Center Drive, Room 9B16, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


Gamma interferon (IFN-gamma) has been shown to inhibit replication of subgenomic and genomic hepatitis C virus (HCV) RNAs in vitro and to noncytolytically suppress hepatitis B virus (HBV) replication in vivo. IFN-gamma is also known for its immunomodulatory effects and as a marker of a successful cellular immune response to HCV. Therapeutic expression of IFN-gamma in the liver may therefore facilitate resolution of chronic hepatitis C, an infection that is rarely resolved spontaneously. To analyze immunomodulatory and antiviral effects of liver-specific IFN-gamma expression in vivo, we intravenously injected two persistently HCV-infected chimpanzees twice with a recombinant, replication-deficient HBV vector and subsequently with a recombinant adenoviral vector. These vectors expressed human IFN-gamma under control of HBV- and liver-specific promoters, respectively. Gene transfer resulted in a transient increase of intrahepatic IFN-gamma mRNA, without increase in serum alanine aminotransferase levels. Ex vivo analysis of peripheral blood lymphocytes demonstrated enhanced CD16 expression on T cells and upregulation of the liver-homing marker CXCR3. Moreover, an increased frequency of HCV-specific T cells was detected ex vivo in the peripheral blood and in vitro in liver biopsy-derived, antigen-nonspecifically expanded T-cell lines. None of these immunologic effects were observed in the third chimpanzee injected with an HBV control vector. Despite these immunologic effects of the experimental vector, however, IFN-gamma gene transfer did not result in a significant and long-lasting decrease of HCV titers. In conclusion, liver-directed IFN-gamma gene delivery resulted in HCV-specific and nonspecific activation of cellular immune responses but did not result in effective control of HCV replication.

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