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J Viral Hepat. 2011 Nov;18(11):760-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2893.2010.01362.x. Epub 2010 Aug 15.

Hepatocyte apoptotic bodies encasing nonstructural HCV proteins amplify hepatic stellate cell activation: implications for chronic hepatitis C.

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  • 1Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, University Hospital Essen, Hufelandstrasse 55, Essen, Germany.


Chronic hepatitis C infection leads to increased hepatocyte apoptosis. Because engulfment of apoptotic bodies (ABs) by hepatic stellate cells (HSC) is profibrogenic, we compared the effects of ABs derived from hepatitis C virus (HCV)-negative vs HCV-infected (Con1+) Huh7 hepatoblastoma cells on fibrogenic and activation-related mRNA expression by a human HSC line (LX2). Uptake of Huh7(Con1+) ABs by LX2 cells dose dependently upregulated profibrotic genes (COL1A1, TGFB1; TIMP1; TIMP2). When normalized to the apoptotic cytokeratin-18 M30 neoepitope, HCV(+) ABs exhibited a more pronounced effect than HCV(-) ABs. In contrast, neither noningested ABs nor nucleic acids obtained from Huh7, Huh7(Con1+) or HepG2 cells triggered those AB-dependent effects. Both the engulfment of Huh7(Con1+) ABs and their effects were partially blocked by masking of phosphatidylserine with annexin V and completely inhibited by the class-A scavenger receptor ligand, polyinosinic acid. Our findings demonstrate that AB uptake stimulates HSCs and indicate that HCV infection leads to amplified fibrogenic mRNA expression and enhanced HSC activation.

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