PEG-IFN alpha but not ribavirin alters NK cell phenotype and function in patients with chronic hepatitis C

  • Background: Ribavirin (RBV) remains part of several interferon-free treatment strategies even though its mechanisms of action are still not fully understood. One hypothesis is that RBV increases responsiveness to type I interferons. Pegylated Interferon alpha (PEG-IFNa) has recently been shown to alter natural killer (NK) cell function possibly contributing to control of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. However, the effects of ribavirin alone or in combination with IFNa on NK cells are unknown. Methods: Extensive ex vivo phenotyping and functional analysis of NK cells from hepatitis C patients was performed during antiviral therapy. Patients were treated for 6 weeks with RBV monotherapy (n = 11), placebo (n = 13) or PEG-IFNa-2a alone (n = 6) followed by PEG-IFNa/RBV combination therapy. The effects of RBV and PEG-IFNa-2a on NK cells were also studied in vitro after co-culture with K562 or Huh7.5 cells. Results: Ribavirin monotherapy had no obvious effects on NK cell phenotype or function, neither ex vivo in patients nor in vitro. In contrast, PEG-IFNa-2a therapy was associated with an increase of CD56bright cells and distinct changes in expression profiles leading to an activated NK cell phenotype, increased functionality and decline of terminally differentiated NK cells. Ribavirin combination therapy reduced some of the IFN effects. An activated NK cell phenotype during therapy was inversely correlated with HCV viral load. Conclusions: PEG-IFNa activates NK cells possibly contributing to virological responses independently of RBV. The role of NK cells during future IFN-free combination therapies including RBV remains to be determined.

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Author:Antoaneta A. Markova, Ulrike Mihm, Verena Schlaphoff, Sebastian Lunemann, Natalie FilmannORCiDGND, Birgit Bremer, Thomas BergORCiDGND, Christoph SarrazinGND, Stefan ZeuzemORCiDGND, Michael P. MannsORCiDGND, Markus CornbergORCiDGND, Eva HerrmannORCiDGND, Heiner WedemeyerORCiDGND
Pubmed Id:
Parent Title (English):PLoS One
Place of publication:Lawrence, Kan.
Document Type:Article
Date of Publication (online):2014/04/21
Date of first Publication:2014/04/21
Publishing Institution:Universitätsbibliothek Johann Christian Senckenberg
Release Date:2014/05/07
Page Number:11
Copyright: © 2014 Markova et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License , which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Institutes:Medizin / Medizin
Dewey Decimal Classification:6 Technik, Medizin, angewandte Wissenschaften / 61 Medizin und Gesundheit / 610 Medizin und Gesundheit
Licence (German):License LogoCreative Commons - Namensnennung 4.0