The presence of an intrahepatic cytotoxic T lymphocyte response is associated with low viral load in patients with chronic hepatitis C virus infection

Anthony J. Freeman, Yong Pan, Charles E. Harvey, Jeffrey J. Post, Matthew G. Law, Peter A. White, William D. Rawlinson, Andrew R. Lloyd, George Marinos, Rosemary A. Ffrench

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

61 Citations (Scopus)


Background/Aims: The role of cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTL) in limiting viral replication and producing hepatocellular injury in patients with chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is controversial. Methods: Intrahepatic and peripheral blood HCV-specific CTL activity against the entire HCV polyprotein was assessed in 26 patients. CTL responses were assessed after effector lymphocytes were re-stimulated for 6 days in vitro using HCV-vaccinia virus-infected autologous cells expressing HCV antigens. Serum and hepatic viral loads were measured and immunohistochemistry for CD3 and CD8 was performed to localise and enumerate effector cells in liver. Results: A positive CTL response was detected in 39/52 (75%) of assays conducted with intrahepatic mononuclear cells and 21/52 (40%) of peripheral blood assays (P < 0.001). The presence of an intrahepatic CTL response was associated with low hepatic viral load (P = 0.004). Hepatic lobular infiltration by CD8+T cells correlated weakly with serum alanine aminotransferase levels (r = 0.42, P = 0.04) and no relationship was demonstrated between CTL activity and histological evidence of liver damage. Conclusions: HCV-specific CTL activity is found more commonly in liver than in blood. An inverse relationship between CTL responses and viral load supports the hypothesis that HCV-specific CTL limit viral replication in patients with chronic HCV infection.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)349-356
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Hepatology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • CD8
  • Chronic hepatitis
  • Cytotoxicity
  • Immunity
  • Viral persistence

Cite this