Toll-like receptor 3 and 7/8 function is impaired in hepatitis C rapid fibrosis progression post-liver transplantation

Jessica A Howell, Rohit Sawhney, Narelle A Skinner, P J Gow, Peter W Angus, Dilip Ratnam, Kumar Visvanathan

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Recurrence of hepatitis C (HCV) postliver transplant is universal, with a subgroup developing rapid hepatic fibrosis. Toll-like receptors (TLRs) are critical to innate antiviral responses and HCV alters TLR function to evade immune clearance. Whether TLRs play a role in rapid HCV recurrence posttransplant is unknown. We stimulated peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from 70 patients with HCV postliver transplant with TLR subclass-specific ligands and measured cytokine production, TLR expression and NK cell function. Rate of fibrosis progression was calculated using posttransplant liver biopsies graded by Metavir scoring (F0-4; R=fibrosis stage/year posttransplant; rapid fibrosis defined as >0.4 units/year). Thirty of 70 (43 ) patients had rapid fibrosis progression. PBMCs from HCV rapid-fibrosers produced less IFNalpha with TLR7/8 stimulation (p=0.039), less IL-6 at baseline (p=0.027) and with TLR3 stimulation (p=0.008) and had lower TLR3-mediated monocyte IL-6 production (p=0.028) compared with HCV slow fibrosers. TLR7/8-mediated NKCD56 dim cell secretion of IFNgamma was impaired in HCV rapid fibrosis (p=0.006) independently of IFNalpha secretion and TLR7/8 expression, while cytotoxicity remained preserved. Impaired TLR3 and TLR7/8-mediated cytokine responses may contribute to aggressive HCV recurrence postliver transplantation through impaired immune control of HCV and subsequent activation of fibrogenesis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)943 - 953
Number of pages11
JournalAmerican Journal of Transplantation
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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