The Influence of Hepatitis C Viral Loads on Natural Killer Cell Function

Mark Collister, Cindy Ellison, Qian Li, Gerald Y. Minuk, Julia D. Rempel, Sam K. Kung


Background: Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection has a high rate of chronicity, attributable to its capacity to alter host immunity, including natural killer (NK) cell function. In this study, the interaction between NK cell activity and HCV viral load was investigated.

Methods: Peripheral blood NK cells were examined for cytotoxicity and interferon (IFN)-gamma expression in HCV infected low (LVL, < 800,000 IU/mL, n = 10) and high (HVL, > 800,000 IU/mL, n = 13) viral load patient cohorts.

Results: Spontaneous NK cell cytotoxicity was more robust in the LVL cohort resulting in a negative correlation with viral loads (spontaneous, r = -0.437, P = 0.037; IFN-α activated, r = -0.372, P = 0.081). Although the percent of IFN-alpha+ NK cells did not associate with viral load, within the LVL cohort there was a marked increase in IFN-gamma+ NK cells upon IFN-alpha± activation relative to medium alone (P < 0.01). To examine the inability of NK cells derived from HVL patients to be further activated, the expression of the exhaustion marker programmed cell death protein (PD)-1 was evaluated. PD-1 expression upon NK cell activation correlated with viral load (r = 0.649, P = 0.009). In addition, HCV proteins upregulated PD-1 expression in vitro (P < 0.05), suggesting that HCV can directly promote NK cell exhaustion. Cells from HVL patients were also more likely to produce IFN-gamma in response to HCV core protein. The finding that NK cell PD-1 and IFN-gamma expression are linked (r = 0.542, P < 0.05) suggests that increased IFN-gamma levels may induce PD-1 as a negative feedback mechanism.

Conclusions: High HCV loads appear to promote NK exhaustion in chronic HCV infection.

Gastroenterol Res. 2019;12(1):8-15


NK cells; Hepatitis C; Cytotoxicity; IFN-gamma; PD-1

Full Text: HTML PDF Suppl1 Suppl2

Browse  Journals  


Journal of Clinical Medicine Research

Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism

Journal of Clinical Gynecology and Obstetrics


World Journal of Oncology

Gastroenterology Research

Journal of Hematology


Journal of Medical Cases

Journal of Current Surgery

Clinical Infection and Immunity


Cardiology Research

World Journal of Nephrology and Urology

Cellular and Molecular Medicine Research


Journal of Neurology Research

International Journal of Clinical Pediatrics



Gastroenterology Research, bimonthly, ISSN 1918-2805 (print), 1918-2813 (online), published by Elmer Press Inc.                     
The content of this site is intended for health care professionals.

This is an open-access journal distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, which permits unrestricted
non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Creative Commons Attribution license (Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International CC-BY-NC 4.0)

This journal follows the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) recommendations for manuscripts submitted to biomedical journals,
the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) guidelines, and the Principles of Transparency and Best Practice in Scholarly Publishing.

website:   editorial contact:
Address: 9225 Leslie Street, Suite 201, Richmond Hill, Ontario, L4B 3H6, Canada

© Elmer Press Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the published articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the editors and Elmer Press Inc. This website is provided for medical research and informational purposes only and does not constitute any medical advice or professional services. The information provided in this journal should not be used for diagnosis and treatment, those seeking medical advice should always consult with a licensed physician.