Interferon alpha treatment stimulates interferon gamma expression in type I NKT cells and enhances their antiviral effect against hepatitis C virus.

Miyaki E, Hiraga N, Imamura M et al.

Department of Gastroenterology and Metabolism, Applied Life Science, Institute of Biomedical & Health Science, Hiroshima University, Hiroshima, Japan.

PloS one. 2017.

Interferon (IFN) inhibits hepatitis C virus (HCV) replication through up-regulation of intrahepatic IFN-stimulated gene expression but also through activation of host immune cells. In the present study, we analyzed the immune cell-mediated antiviral effects of IFN-α using HCV-infected mice. Urokinase-type plasminogen activator (uPA)-severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID) mice with transplanted human hepatocytes were infected with genotype 1b HCV and injected with human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs). IFN-α treatment following human PBMC transplantation resulted in a significant reduction in serum HCV RNA titers and a higher human CD45-positive mononuclear cell chimerism compared to mice without human PBMC transplantation. In mice with human PBMCs treated with IFN-α, serum concentrations of IFN-γ increased, and natural killer T (NKT) cells, especially type I NKT cells, produced IFN-γ. Mice in which IFN-γ signaling was blocked using antibody or in which transplanted PBMCs were depleted for type I NKT cells showed similar levels of anti-HCV effect compared with mice treated only with IFN-α. These results show that IFN-α stimulates IFN-γ expression in type 1 NKT cells and enhances the inhibition of HCV replication. We propose that type 1 NKT cells might represent a new therapeutic target for chronic hepatitis C patients.


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