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Serum microRNA-122 levels in different groups of patients with chronic hepatitis B virus infection


Oliver Waidmann, MD, Medizinische Klinik 1, Schwerpunkt Gastroenterologie und Hepatologie, Klinikum der Goethe-Universität, Theodor-Stern-Kai 7, 60590 Frankfurt/Main, Germany. E-mail:


Summary.  miR-122 is a liver-specific microRNA, which also circulates in the blood. The levels of miR-122 in serum and plasma correlate with hepatic necroinflammation in patients with hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection. Here, we investigated whether miR-122 levels correlate with surrogate markers for viral replication and translation. Furthermore, we examined whether miR-122 levels differ in the different groups of HBV-infected patients and whether miR-122 levels may be useful to identify patients with higher or lower risk for liver disease progression. Therefore, RNA was extracted from sera of therapy-naïve patients with HBV infection (n = 89) and from healthy volunteers (n = 19). The concentration of miR-122 was assessed by quantitative real-time reverse-transcription PCR. HBs antigen and HBV DNA levels were quantified as surrogate parameters for HBV replication and translation. Liver biopsies were examined according to the histological activity index and the degree of fibrosis was assessed. We found that the miR-122 serum concentration correlated with the level of ALT, HBV DNA and HBs antigen (r = 0.259, P < 0.05; r = 0.225, P < 0.05; r = 0.508, P < 0.001, respectively). The miR-122 serum levels discriminated the different patient groups infected with HBV from healthy subjects (P < 0.001), and inactive carrier patients with high (>3500 IU/mL) or low (<3500 IU/mL) levels of HBs antigen could be differentiated by the miR-122 serum concentration (P < 0.05). As serum miR-122 levels strongly correlated with HBs antigen, it might be an indicator for viral translation. Furthermore, serum miR-122 levels discriminated HBV carrier patients with high or low risk for disease progression and may, thus, be an additional marker for risk stratification.