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Steatosis in chronic hepatitis C: Association with increased messenger RNA expression of collagen I, tumor necrosis factor-α and cytochrome P450 2E1


Dr Elizabeth E Powell, Director of Clinical Training, Princess Alexandra Hospital, Ipswich Road, Woolloongabba, Queensland 4102, Australia. Email:


Background: Increased levels of tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α and oxidative stress have been implicated as factors contributing to hepatic injury in fatty liver diseases. As steatosis is associated with an accelerated progression of fibrosis in chronic hepatitis C (HCV), we hypothesized that the messenger (m)RNA expression of genes involved with the production of reactive oxygen species, inflammation and cellular injury would be increased in liver tissue from subjects with steatosis and chronic HCV.

Methods: Real-time polymerase chain reaction was performed to determine relative mRNA expression levels of collagen I, TNF-α, cytochrome P450 2E1 (CYP 2E1), transforming growth factor-β1 and CD14 in liver biopsies from 38 patients with chronic HCV. The mRNA expression levels were compared between subjects with and without steatosis, fibrosis, and inflammation.

Results: Multivariate analysis demonstrated that collagen I mRNA expression was increased by 199% in steatosis (P = 0.02), 85% in moderate to severe fibrosis (P = 0.02) and 157% in inflammation (P = 0.03). Livers of patients with steatosis also had an increase in TNF-α mRNA expression by 50% (P = 0.03) and CYP 2E1 expression by 37% (P = 0.04) compared with non-steatotic livers. Tumor necrosis factor-α protein was localized to Kupffer cells, bile ducts and portal inflammatory cells by immunohistochemistry.

Conclusion: Increased expression of TNF-α may be involved in the pathogenesis of liver injury and progression of fibrosis in individuals who have steatosis in association with chronic HCV.

© 2003 Blackwell Publishing Asia Pty Ltd