Modulations of cell cycle checkpoints during HCV associated disease.
Background: Impaired proliferation of hepatocytes has been reported in chronic Hepatitis C virus infection. Considering the fundamental role played by cell cycle proteins in controlling cell proliferation, altered regulation of these proteins could significantly contribute to HCV disease progression and subsequent hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). This study aimed to identify the alterations in cell cycle genes expression with respect to early and advanced disease of chronic HCV infection. Methods: Using freshly frozen liver biopsies, mRNA levels of 84 cell cycle genes in pooled RNA samples from Patients with early or advanced fibrosis of chronic HCV infection were studied. To associate mRNA levels with respective protein levels, four genes (p27, p15, KNTC1 and MAD2L1) with significant changes in mRNA levels (> 2-fold, p-value < 0.05) were selected, and their protein expressions were examined in the liver biopsies of 38 chronic hepatitis C Patients. Results: In the early fibrosis group, increased mRNA levels of cell proliferation genes as well as cell cycle inhibitor genes were observed. In the advanced fibrosis group, DNA damage response genes were up-regulated while those associated with chromosomal stability were down-regulated. Increased expression of CDK inhibitor protein p27 was consistent with its mRNA level detected in early group while the same was found to be negatively associated with liver fibrosis. CDK inhibitor protein p15 was highly expressed in both early and advanced group, but showed no correlation with fibrosis. Among the mitotic checkpoint regulators, expression of KNTC1 was significantly reduced in advanced group while MAD2L1 showed a non-significant decrease. Conclusion: Collectively these results are suggestive of a disrupted cell cycle regulation in HCV-infected liver. The information presented here highlights the potential of identified proteins as predictive factors to identify Patients with high risk of cell transformation and HCC development.