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Hepatology. 2014 Nov;60(5):1519-30. doi: 10.1002/hep.27277. Epub 2014 Oct 2.

Impaired interferon signaling in chronic hepatitis C patients with advanced fibrosis via the transforming growth factor beta signaling pathway.

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Department of Gastroenterology, Kanazawa University Graduate School of Medicine, Kanazawa, Japan; Department of Advanced Medical Technology, Kanazawa University Graduate School of Health Medicine, Kanazawa, Japan.


Malnutrition in the advanced fibrosis stage of chronic hepatitis C (CH-C) impairs interferon (IFN) signaling by inhibiting mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1) signaling. However, the effect of profibrotic signaling on IFN signaling is not known. Here, the effect of transforming growth factor (TGF)-β signaling on IFN signaling and hepatitis C virus (HCV) replication was examined in Huh-7.5 cells by evaluating the expression of forkhead box O3A (Foxo3a), suppressor of cytokine signaling 3 (Socs3), c-Jun, activating transcription factor 2, ras homolog enriched in brain, and mTORC1. The findings were confirmed in liver tissue samples obtained from 91 patients who received pegylated-IFN and ribavirin combination therapy. TGF-β signaling was significantly up-regulated in the advanced fibrosis stage of CH-C. A significant positive correlation was observed between the expression of TGF-β2 and mothers against decapentaplegic homolog 2 (Smad2), Smad2 and Foxo3a, and Foxo3a and Socs3 in the liver of CH-C patients. In Huh-7.5 cells, TGF-β1 activated the Foxo3a promoter through an AP1 binding site; the transcription factor c-Jun was involved in this activation. Foxo3a activated the Socs3 promoter and increased HCV replication. TGF-β1 also inhibited mTORC1 and IFN signaling. Interestingly, c-Jun and TGF-β signaling was up-regulated in treatment-resistant IL28B minor genotype patients (TG/GG at rs8099917), especially in the early fibrosis stage. Branched chain amino acids or a TGF-β receptor inhibitor canceled these effects and showed an additive effect on the anti-HCV activity of direct-acting antiviral drugs (DAAs).


Blocking TGF-β signaling could potentiate the antiviral efficacy of IFN- and/ or DAA-based treatment regimens and would be useful for the treatment of difficult-to-cure CH-C patients.

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