Role of A20 in interferon-α-mediated functional restoration of myeloid dendritic cells in patients with chronic hepatitis C


  • Li Ma and Yun Zhou contributed equally to this work and share first authorship on this study.


Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is a global health problem characterized by a high rate of chronic infection, which may in part be due to a defect in myeloid dendritic cells (mDCs). This defect appears to be remedied by treatment with interferon-α (IFN-α) -based antiviral therapies; however, the molecular mechanisms underlying mDC dysfunction in HCV infection and restoration by IFN-α treatment are unclear. The ubiquitin-editing protein A20 plays a crucial role in controlling the maturation, cytokine production and immunostimulatory function of mDCs. We propose that the expression of A20 correlates with the function of mDCs during HCV infection and IFN-α therapy. In this study, we observed that A20 expression in mDCs isolated from chronically HCV-infected subjects was significantly higher than healthy subjects or subjects achieving sustained virological responses (SVR) following antiviral treatment. Notably, A20 expression in mDCs from HCV patients during IFN-α treatment was significantly lower than for untreated patients, SVR patients, or healthy subjects. Besides, A20 expression in mDCs stimulated by polyI:C differed between HCV patients and healthy subjects, and this difference could be abrogated by the treatment with IFN-α in vitro. Additionally, A20 expression by polyI:C-activated mDCs, with or without IFN-α treatment, negatively correlated with the expression of HLA-DR, CD86 and CCR7, and the secretion of interleukin-12 (IL-12), but positively associated with the production of IL-10. Importantly, silencing A20 expression using small interfering RNAs increased the production of IL-12 in mDCs of chronically HCV-infected individuals. These findings suggest that A20 plays a crucial role in negative regulation of innate immune responses during chronic viral infection.