Hepatic metallothionein expression in chronic hepatitis C virus infection is IFNL3 genotype-dependent

K. S. O'connor, G. Parnell, E. Patrick, G. Ahlenstiel, V. Suppiah, D. Van Der Poorten, S. A. Read, R. Leung, M. W. Douglas, J. Yh Yang, G. J. Stewart, C. Liddle, J. George, D. R. Booth

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18 Citations (Scopus)


The IFNL3 genotype predicts the clearance of hepatitis C virus (HCV), spontaneously and with interferon (IFN)-based therapy. The responder genotype is associated with lower expression of interferon stimulated genes (ISGs) in liver biopsies from chronic hepatitis C patients. However, ISGs represent many interacting molecular pathways, and we hypothesised that the IFNL3 genotype may produce a characteristic pattern of ISG expression explaining the effect of genotype on viral clearance. For the first time, we identified an association between a cluster of ISGs, the metallothioneins (MTs) and IFNL3 genotype. Importantly, MTs were significantly upregulated (in contrast to most other ISGs) in HCV-infected liver biopsies of rs8099917 responders. An association between lower fibrosis scores and higher MT levels was demonstrated underlying clinical relevance of this association. As expected, overall ISGs were significantly downregulated in biopsies from subjects with the IFNL3 rs8099917 responder genotype (P=2.38 × 10 -7). Peripheral blood analysis revealed paradoxical and not previously described findings with upregulation of ISGs seen in the responder genotype (P=1.00 × 10 -4). The higher MT expression in responders may contribute to their improved viral clearance and MT-inducing agents may be useful adjuncts to therapy for HCV. Upregulation of immune cell ISGs in responders may also contribute to the IFNL3 genotype effect.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)88-94
Number of pages7
JournalGenes and Immunity
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished or Issued - Mar 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Hepatitis C virus
  • IFNL3
  • Interferon-stimulated genes
  • Metallothioneins

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)

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