Background and Aim: Hepatitis C virus (HCV) proteins activate the unfolded protein response (UPR) in experimental models. The role of the UPR in the pathogenesis of HCV-induced liver injury has not been determined. Our aim was to investigate the role of the UPR in the pathogenesis of chronic HCV.
Methods: Liver biopsy samples from 124 patients with chronic HCV and 24 HCV/HBV-negative subjects with histologically normal liver (NDL) were assessed. The hepatic mRNA expression of components of the UPR was measured by semi-quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction. Glucose regulated protein (GRP) 78 protein expression was assessed by immunohistochemistry.
Results: The expression of GRP78 mRNA and growth arrest and damage inducible protein 34 (GADD34) mRNA was significantly lower in subjects with HCV than NDL (P = 0.007 and P < 0.001, respectively). There was no significant difference in the expression of GRP94 mRNA, spliced X box binding protein 1 (sXBP1) mRNA, C/EBP homologous protein mRNA (CHOP) and ER degradation enhancing α-mannosidase-like protein (EDEM) mRNA and GRP78 protein between patients with HCV and NDL. There were no relationships between elements of the UPR and inflammation or fibrosis in patients with HCV.
Conclusion: Downstream components of UPR were not activated in patients with chronic HCV. Therefore, the UPR may not play a prominent role in liver injury in patients with chronic HCV infection.