• Tumor necrosis factor α;
  • Interleukin-12;
  • Monocyte;
  • Ethanol;
  • Apoptosis

Background: Excessive alcohol use results in impaired immunity, and it is associated with increased incidence and progression of chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. Here we investigated the effects of HCV infection and alcohol on myeloid dendritic cells (DC) that are critical in antiviral immunity.

Methods: Immature and mature DCs were generated from monocytes of chronic HCV infected patients (HCV-DC) and controls (N-DC) with IL-4 plus granulocyte-macrophage colony stimulating factor (GM-CSF) in the presence or absence of alcohol (25 mM). DC allostimulatory capacity was tested in mixed lymphocyte reaction (MLR) and cytokine production by ELISA.

Results: Allostimulatory capacity of HCV-DCs was reduced compared to N-DCs and it was further inhibited by alcohol treatment (p < 0.01). MLR was also decreased with alcohol-treated N-DCs. DC phenotypic markers and apoptosis were comparable between HCV-DCs and N-DCs irrespective of alcohol treatment. However, HCV-DCs and alcohol-treated N-DCs exhibited elevated IL-10 and reduced IL-12 production. Reduced MLR with HCV-DCs and its further inhibition by alcohol coexisted with decreasing IL-2 levels (p < 0.017). DC maturation partially improved but failed to fully restore the reduced allostimulatory function of either alcohol-treated or alcohol-naïve HCV-DCs (p < 0.018).

Conclusions: Alcohol and HCV independently and together inhibit DC allostimulatory capacity, increase IL-10, reduce IL-12 and IL-2 production that cannot be normalized by DC maturation. HCV and alcohol interact to modulate innate and adaptive immune responses via dendritic cells.