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Abstract

Progressive hepatic fibrosis and cirrhosis develops in 20% to 30% of patients with chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV). We propose that host genetic factors influencing fibrogenesis may account for some of the variability in progression of this disease. In progressive fibrosis of other organs, particularly heart and kidney, production of the profibrogenic cytokine, transforming growth factor β1 (TGF-β1), may be enhanced by angiotensin II, the principal effector molecule of the renin-angiotensin system. The inheritance of polymorphisms in TGF-β1, interleukin 10 (IL-10), tumor necrosis factor α (TNF-α), and genes of the renin-angiotensin system was examined in 128 patients with chronic HCV. The influence of genotypes on the stage of hepatic fibrosis was tested after adjustment for potential confounders (age, gender, alcohol consumption, portal inflammation, and steatosis), which may have independent effects on histological severity. The stage of fibrosis was 0 in 30 (23.4%), 1 in 44 (34.4%), 2 in 27 (21.1%), and 3 or 4 in 27 (21.1%). A statistically significant relationship was seen between inheritance of high TGF-β1– and angiotensinogen (AT)-producing genotypes and the development of progressive hepatic fibrosis. This association persisted after correcting for potential confounders. Patients who inherited neither of the profibrogenic genotypes had no or only minimal fibrosis. Knowledge of these polymorphisms may have prognostic significance in patients with chronic HCV and may direct more aggressive therapy towards those patients with an increased risk of disease progression. The documentation of a significant relationship between AT genotype and fibrosis raises the novel suggestion that angiotensin II may be another mediator of extracellular matrix production in the liver.