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Keywords:

  • HCV;
  • HCV/HIV infection;
  • hepatic inflammation;
  • TLR;
  • TNF-α

Summary.  Signalling activated by Toll-like receptors (TLRs) can result in the production of tumour necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) which is implicated in hepatitis C virus (HCV) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. No study has examined or compared hepatic expression of TLRs in both HCV and HCV/HIV. Liver and peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) were obtained from HCV & HCV/HIV-infected patients and PBMCs from HIV-infected patients. Liver RNA was analysed by microarray and reverse transcription quantitative PCR (RT-qPCR). PBMCs were analysed by flow cytometry. Associations with hepatic histology and infection type were sought. Forty-six HCV, 20 HIV and 27 HCV/HIV-infected patients were recruited. Increasing Metavir inflammatory activity score was associated with increased hepatic TLR mRNA by RT-qPCR: TLR2 (≤ 0.001), TLR4 (P = 0.008) and TNF-α (P ≤ 0.001). A high degree of correlation was seen between hepatic mRNA expression of TNF-αvs TLR2 (r2 = 0.66, P < 0.0001) and TLR4 (r2 = 0.60, P < 0.0001). No differences in TLR gene or protein expression was observed between HCV, HCV/HIV- or HIV-infected groups. Hepatic TLR2, TLR4 and TNF-α mRNA are associated with hepatic inflammation in both HCV and HCV/HIV infection. High correlation between TNF-α and TLR2/TLR4 suggests a role for the innate immune response in TNF-α production. Activation of the innate immune response appears to be independent of infection type.