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Hepatology. 1998 Jun;27(6):1687-94.

Ribavirin inhibits protein synthesis and cell proliferation induced by mitogenic factors in primary human and rat hepatocytes.

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  • 1INSERM U49, Hopital Pontchaillou, Rennes, France.


Ribavirin, a guanosine analog, used in combination with interferon alpha (IFN-alpha) in the treatment of chronic hepatitis induced by hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection, has been shown to improve liver histology and to decrease transaminases even when administered alone. We analyzed the direct effects of ribavirin on the liver by using primary cultures of human and rat hepatocytes. Between 10 to 60 micromol/L, ribavirin was found to inhibit both the synthesis and secretion of whole proteins in a time- and dose-dependent fashion. Such an effect was confirmed by the measurement of albumin and haptoglobin secretion rates. [3H]-Thymidine incorporation was suppressed both in hepatocyte growth factor-stimulated human hepatocytes and in epidermal growth factor (EGF)-stimulated rat hepatocytes in the presence of ribavirin. The inhibitory effect on DNA synthesis was associated with a delayed progression to S phase of the cell cycle, as determined by flow cytometry and detection of cyclin A and cdc2 which are two proteins expressed during the S phase. The inhibition of DNA synthesis, caused by 50 micromol/L ribavirin, was completely restored by the addition of 80 micromol/L guanosine. These observations demonstrate that ribavirin at concentrations close to those found in plasma of treated patients can directly affect hepatic functions in vitro. Its effects could, however, be reduced in vivo by guanosine salvage supply.

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