Journal of virology

Hepatitis C virus infection induces inflammatory cytokines and chemokines mediated by the cross talk between hepatocytes and stellate cells.

PMID 23678168


Inflammatory cytokines and chemokines play important roles in inflammation during viral infection. Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a hepatotropic RNA virus that is closely associated with chronic liver inflammation, fibrosis, and hepatocellular carcinoma. During the progression of HCV-related diseases, hepatic stellate cells (HSCs) contribute to the inflammatory response triggered by HCV infection. However, the underlying molecular mechanisms that mediate HSC-induced chronic inflammation during HCV infection are not fully understood. By coculturing HSCs with HCV-infected hepatocytes in vitro, we found that HSCs stimulated HCV-infected hepatocytes, leading to the expression of proinflammatory cytokines and chemokines such as interleukin-6 (IL-6), IL-8, macrophage inflammatory protein 1α (MIP-1α), and MIP-1β. Moreover, we found that this effect was mediated by IL-1α, which was secreted by HSCs. HCV infection enhanced production of CCAAT/enhancer binding protein (C/EBP) β mRNA, and HSC-dependent IL-1α production contributed to the stimulation of C/EBPβ target cytokines and chemokines in HCV-infected hepatocytes. Consistent with this result, knockdown of mRNA for C/EBPβ in HCV-infected hepatocytes resulted in decreased production of cytokines and chemokines after the addition of HSC conditioned medium. Induction of cytokines and chemokines in hepatocytes by the HSC conditioned medium required a yet to be identified postentry event during productive HCV infection. The cross talk between HSCs and HCV-infected hepatocytes is a key feature of inflammation-mediated, HCV-related diseases.