Immunolocalisation of interferon-alpha in hepatitis C patients and its correlation with response to interferon-alpha therapy

Alison L. Greenway, Paul J. Hertzog, Rodney J. Devenish, Francis J. Dudley, Gabrielle L. McMullen, Anthony W. Linnane

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Localised interferon-alpha production was investigated in hepatitis C patients entered into a trial of interferon-alpha-2a therapy. Antibodies capable of reacting specifically with interferon-alpha-2, interferon-alpha-4 or with all interferon-alpha subtypes were used as immunohistochemical and immunofluorescence probes to study interferon-alpha production in liver biopsy tissue, and peripheral blood mononuclear cells prior to and after stimulation with Sendai virus. Measurement of cytoplasmic interferon-alpha, specifically interferon-alpha-2 and interferon-alpha-4, in peripheral blood mononuclear cells isolated from the hepatitis C patients and of total interferon-alpha secreted into culture supernatants by these cells showed interferon-alpha production similar to that of peripheral blood mononuclear cells isolated from normal individuals. Interferon-alpha-positive cells were observed in the infiltrating mononuclear cells of the liver biopsy tissue obtained from 8 of the 14 patients. Lymphocytes, fibroblasts, Kupffer cells, polymorphonuclear cells and monocytes stained positive for interferon-alpha, and specifically interferon-alpha-4, in all of the eight patients. The cytoplasm of hepatocytes also stained weakly positive in three of these patients. Interferon-alpha positive cells showed a good correlation with the degree of histological damage observed in the liver biopsies but not with presence of antibodies towards hepatitis C virus or levels of serum alanine aminotransferase measured prior to interferon-alpha-2a therapy. Interestingly, response to therapy seemed linked to local interferon-alpha production status. Those patients who responded best to therapy displayed no or only low levels of interferon-alpha positive cells in liver biopsy tissue. Thus patients with a lower activation of their endogenous interferon-alpha system may benefit from administration of exogenous interferon-alpha.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)842-852
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Hepatology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1994


  • Chronic hepatitis C
  • Immunolocalisation
  • Interferon-alpha production
  • Interferon-alpha therapy
  • Liver biopsy

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