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Keywords:

  • chemokines;
  • hepatitis C virus;
  • inflammation;
  • viral hepatitis pathogenesis

Summary.  Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a leading cause of chronic liver disease that can progress to cirrhosis and/or hepatocellular carcinoma. Intrahepatic inflammation and liver cell injury are defining features of chronic HCV infection. Chemokines, chemotactic cytokines that attract leucocytes to inflammatory sites, may be important in the development of intrahepatic inflammation. As T-helper (Th)1 inflammatory cells, characterized by interferon (IFN)-γ and interleukin (IL)-2 secretion, predominate in the liver during chronic HCV infection, chemokines that attract these cells might be particularly important in disease progression. In this review, we focus on the role of Th1 chemokines, which are all members of the CXC or CC subfamilies. Among the CXC chemokines, the non-ELR group comprised of IFN-γ-inducible protein 10 (IP-10), monokine induced by IFN-γ (Mig) and IFN-inducible T-cell-α chemoattractant (I-TAC), attract Th1 cells through the interaction with their receptor, CXCR3. Among the CC subfamily, Th1-associated chemokines include regulated upon activation, normal T-cell expressed and secreted (RANTES) and macrophage inflammatory proteins (MIP)1α and β. These chemokines attract cells through an interaction with their receptor, CCR5. While peripheral blood and intrahepatic levels of all of these chemokines are elevated in chronic hepatitis C patients, only select chemokines have been found to be correlated with hepatic inflammation. Among the six chemokines, IP-10 has uniquely been shown to have prognostic utility as a marker of treatment outcome. In the future, chemokines might be used to monitor the natural course and progression of HCV-associated liver disease, to identify patients with a high likelihood of achieving a therapeutic response, and they may even have potential as therapeutic targets.