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Hepatitis C virus and liver disease: Global transcriptional profiling and identification of potential markers

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Abstract

Microarray analysis of RNA from hepatitis C virus (HCV)-infected cirrhotic livers was performed to identify a gene expression signature of liver disease. The expression levels of approximately 13,600 genes were analyzed using surgical material and core biopsy specimens from HCV-infected cirrhotic liver explants in comparison with reference samples of normal nondiseased liver. In addition, normal liver samples were compared with each other to determine normal physiologic variation in gene expression. A set of genes, including some associated with stress, acute-phase immune response, and hepatic stellate cell activation, had variable expression levels in normal livers. These genes were subtracted from the sets of genes differentially expressed in cirrhotic livers. To exclude cancer-related genes from our marker sets, we subtracted genes that also were expressed differentially in hepatocellular carcinomas. The resultant HCV- and liver disease-associated gene set provided a molecular portrait of several processes occurring in the HCV-infected liver. It included (1) genes expressed in activated lymphocytes infiltrating the cirrhotic liver, and activated liver macrophages; (2) genes involved in remodeling of extracellular matrix-cell and cell-cell interactions associated with cytoskeleton rearrangements; (3) genes related to the anti-apoptotic pathway of Bcl-2 signaling; and (4) genes involved with the interferon response and virus-host interactions. In conclusion, our microarray analysis identified several potential gene markers of HCV-associated liver disease and contributed to our rapidly expanding database of experiments describing HCV pathogenesis.

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