Recent investigations indicate that hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is closely associated with hepatocytic lipid metabolism and induces hepatic steatosis. However, the actual lipid metabolism in HCV-infected liver has not been extensively investigated in humans. In this study, we evaluated the expression of lipid metabolism-associated genes in patients with HCV infection by real-time PCR. Sterol regulatory element-binding protein (SREBP)-2 expression was unchanged and low density lipoprotein receptor expression was markedly reduced by 90% in HCV-infected liver. The expression of apolipoprotein B100, microsomal triglyceride transfer ptotein and ATP-binding cassette G5 was significantly increased. Up-regulation of cholesterol synthesis-associated genes, including HMG-CoA reductase, HMG-CoA synthase, farnesyl-diphosphate synthase and squalene synthase, confirmed enhanced de novo cholesterol synthesis. The expression of cholesterol 7α-hydroxylase and farnesoid X receptor was enhanced, while bile salt export pump expression was unchanged. Fatty acid synthase expression was increased which was accompanied by increased expression of liver X receptor α and SREBP-1c. In summary, the regulation of lipid metabolism was impaired and cholesterol and fatty acid synthesis continued to increase without negative feedback in HCV-infected liver. These changes may be beneficial for HCV replication.
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