Ribavirin potentiates interferon action by augmenting interferon-stimulated gene induction in hepatitis C virus cell culture models

Authors

  • Emmanuel Thomas,

    1. Liver Diseases Branch, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD
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  • Jordan J. Feld,

    1. Liver Diseases Branch, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD
    2. Division of Gastroenterology, Department of Medicine, Toronto Western Hospital Liver Centre, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
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  • Qisheng Li,

    1. Liver Diseases Branch, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD
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  • Zongyi Hu,

    1. Liver Diseases Branch, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD
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  • Michael W. Fried,

    1. Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC
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  • T. Jake Liang

    Corresponding author
    1. Liver Diseases Branch, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD
    • Liver Diseases Branch, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health, 10 Center Drive, Building 10, 9B17, Bethesda, MD, 20892
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    • fax: 301-402-0491


  • Potential conflict of interest: Nothing to report.

Abstract

The combination of pegylated interferon (PEG-IFN) and ribavirin is the standard treatment for chronic hepatitis C. Our recent clinical study suggests that ribavirin augments the induction of interferon-stimulated genes (ISGs) in patients treated for hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. In order to further characterize the mechanisms of action of ribavirin, we examined the effect of ribavirin treatment on ISG induction in cell culture. In addition, the effect of ribavirin on infectious HCV cell culture systems was studied. Similar to interferon (IFN)-α, ribavirin potently inhibits JFH-1 infection of Huh7.5.1 cells in a dose-dependent manner, which spans the physiological concentration of ribavirin in vivo. Microarray analysis and subsequent quantitative polymerase chain reaction assays demonstrated that ribavirin treatment resulted in the induction of a distinct set of ISGs. These ISGs, including IFN regulatory factors 7 and 9, are known to play an important role in anti-HCV responses. When ribavirin is used in conjunction with IFN-α, induction of specific ISGs is synergistic when compared with either drug applied separately. Direct up-regulation of these antiviral genes by ribavirin is mediated by a novel mechanism different from those associated with IFN signaling and intracellular double-stranded RNA sensing pathways such as RIG-I and MDA5. RNA interference studies excluded the activation of the Toll-like receptor and nuclear factor κB pathways in the action of ribavirin. Conclusion: Our study suggests that ribavirin, acting by way of a novel innate mechanism, potentiates the anti-HCV effect of IFN. Understanding the mechanism of action of ribavirin would be valuable in identifying novel antivirals (HEPATOLOGY 2011.)

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